Wednesday, September 05, 2012

President Obama calls "Harold and Kumar"

The Democratic National Committee thought it would be great sport and smart politics to run a lighthearted ad in which the President calls movie characters "Harold" and "Kumar," who are lamely stereotyped "stoners," to ask them to help him get the Democratic Convention "right."

Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP)
alumni Shaleen Title, Chris Wallis and Andrew Livingston (I am proud to call all of them friends and colleagues) have produced a wonderful video of how the call might have gone if Pres. Obama had called a real marijuana user, not the drug czar's stereotypical vision of one.

The Obama call to Harold and Kumar ad is perhaps one of the dumbest moves by a campaign that has clearly lost its touch with the young because it draws renewed attention by young voters to Obama's cumulative insults and disregard of marijuana users and their political concerns. When Obama's early efforts to communicate with the public in direct online question format produced enormous support for marijuana legalization questions he joked that this support was a quirky and trivial artifact of the online world. In every other later social media communications efforts, when such questions were submitted and drew the largest number of "likes" or other approval, the questions were pointedly ignored or simply removed from the websites in a classic "1984," Orwellian consignment to the "memory hole" of invisibility.

Aside from the insults, the mockery, and the contemptuous disregard of marijuana users' concerns, the substance of the policy has been shocking, especially regarding medical use of marijuana. Obama pledged in his campaign to honor state medical marijuana laws. But he abdicated control of the Justice Department which has raided and shut down more dispensaries in 3 1/2 years than Pres. G.W. Bush's Justice Department (remember Ashcroft and Gonzales?) shut down in 8 years.

Federal marijuana prosecutions have increased to almost 7000 prosecutions a year in FY 2011, eclipsing all other drugs. And over two thirds of federal marijuana prosecutions are directed at Hispanics. White federal marijuana defendants are only 22.6 percent of the total, a rather blatant racial disparity.

Over seventy percent of House Democrats have voted to abandon the Administration's anti-medical marijuana policy, and it has been pointedly criticized by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, the party's most successful fund raiser.

Others will write about the wrongheadedness of this crusade from a medical policy or constitutional law perspective, but the political myopia is heartbreaking for Democrats and supporters of Obama. The voters have passed medical marijuana initiatives every time they have had the chance with the exception of a quixotic unfunded initiative in South Dakota. Numerous state legislatures have passed and governors have signed such laws in Hawaii, New Mexico, New Jersey, Delaware, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut and the District of Columbia. (Maryland's legislature passed a watered down medical marijuana law.)

The timing could not be worse -- this is going to spill over the convention coverage in a bad way for Obama -- and he and his cynical campaign deserve it!

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