Drug legalization absorbs top 200 questions in YouTube’s ‘Ask Obama’ Q&A

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, January 27, 2011 12:02 EDT
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Update: President Obama answered one question about marijuana

During his YouTube Q&A, President Obama was asked what his plan is to help alleviate the detrimental effects of America’s drug war.

He responded by saying that while he’s not in favor of legalization, he did see room for adjusting the drug war to focus less on incarceration and enforcement and more on medical treatment and other forms of interdiction.

The position expressed by President Obama was largely unchanged from 2009, when he told a community driven Q&A that he did not believe legalizing marijuana was a good strategy to grow the economy. He did not, however, crack a joke about the question, calling the debate over drug policy “legitimate.”

The president’s alleged recalibration of the drug war was heavily criticized last May by reform advocates, who pointed out that while rhetoric on treatment over enforcement sounded nice, the actual budget figures did not reflect such a shift.

The fiscal year 2010 budget for America’s Office on National Drug Control Policy was diverted 64 percent of its funds to law enforcement and just 36 percent to demand reduction strategies like addiction therapy.

“Due to accounting changes made under the Bush administration and maintained by Obama, the budget ratio doesn’t even take into account some costs of the ‘war on drugs’ such as incarceration,” activist group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) noted.

A prior report follows…

This sounds like a bit of history repeating: A community driven Q&A with President Barack Obama, sponsored by Google’s video sharing website YouTube, has resulted in a single question rocketing to the top of the list, focusing on the legalization of drugs.

Another community driven Q&A, featured in 2009 by the nonprofit social action website Change.org, resulted in a similar question rising to the top, asking the president what he thought about legalizing marijuana as a way of growing the economy.

President Obama, however, appeared to take it as a joke.

“I don’t know what this says about the online audience,” he quipped, drawing laughs from an assembled crowd. “But, no, I don’t think that is a good strategy to grow the economy.”

This year, the YouTube community overwhelmingly chose to ask Obama about his views on the drug war, with 13,842 votes for a question by MacKenzie Allen, a retired deputy sheriff from King County, Washington. Allen was a member of LEAP, a community of activists with backgrounds in law enforcement who’ve set their sights on ending the nation’s drug war.

“I’ve watched for decades as we throw good money after bad and, more importantly, life after life, at a ‘War on Drugs’ that is waged with counterproductive tactics and an overall flawed strategy,” Allen said in a media advisory. “For the sake of those law enforcers who are still bravely on the front lines of the ‘Drug War,’ I hope our politicians will heed the call to finally discuss a new approach to drug control.”

The runner-up question in second place received over 10,000 fewer votes, but it too asked about the prohibition of drugs, specifically marijuana.

In fact, every single question in the top 200, save for two, touched on the drug war, from angles like prison reform, reducing the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) budget, helping farmers by legalizing industrial hemp or simply allowing American adults the freedom to put whatever they want in their bodies.

One of the top questions even asked why Obama treated the 2009 Change.org query on marijuana as a joke.

Needless to say, unlike his last community Q&A, it will be incredibly difficult for President Obama to ignore or laugh off such questions this time around.

“We’d really love for the president to simply acknowledge that this is a serious issue worth debating and not embarrass himself again by trying to turn the failed drug war – which kills thousands of people a year – into some kind of Cheech and Chong joke,” LEAP spokesman Tom Angell told Raw Story.

The top question posed to Obama, published by LEAP, follows.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KIQPVQJ45L6BOV24M4GKQDJG6Y Paul Follansbee

    i think if you want to create jobs, then we need to make outsourcing illegal