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What Do Americans Want? Legal Pot, White House Online Survey Reports

Updated 1:29 p.m.
By Dan Eggen
Forget about the economic crisis, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and saving Social Security: An online opinion survey released by the White House this week ranks legalizing pot, playing online poker and cracking down on Scientologists as far more important issues.

The results are part of a "Citizen's Briefing Book," which compiles the results of an online project launched by President Obama's transition office to solicit policy ideas from the citizenry. More than 125,000 users submitted 1.4 million votes during the wide-open process, leading to results that clearly do not align with recent scientific polling.

Legalizing marijuana, for example, ranked as the most popular issue. Ending federal prosecutions for medicinal marijuana also ranked high, as did ending the war on drugs. "We must stop imprisoning responsible adult citizens choosing to use a drug that has been mislabeled for over 70 years," said one respondent named "Matt."

This is not the first time that Obama has been hounded by Web-proficient marijuana supporters. One of the most popular questions submitted to an "online town hall" hosted by Obama in March was whether legalizing marijuana would help grow the economy; the president said he didn't think it was a good strategy.

As might be obvious from the results, this was not a scientific survey. Online, opt-in surveys such as this one are not generated using a random sample of Americans, which is necessary to take a representative measure of public sentiment. In the most recent Gallup polling on the most important problem facing the nation, the economy continued to hold the top spot, with 76 percent citing it as their top priority. No other issue was mentioned by more than seven percent of adults nationwide.

In contrast, a large number of participants in the "citizen's briefing" survey called for an end to the tax-exempt status for the Church of Scientology, perhaps best known as the unconventional religion of choice for Tom Cruise, John Travolta and other Hollywood actors. "It is my belief, and the belief of thousands of other Americans, that the Church of Scientology is a dangerous, for-profit organization," wrote someone dubbed "azure."

And the number one technology issue facing America? The need to legalize online poker gambling, of course.

"Poker players around the country are speaking with one voice to protect the game they love, and the White House is hearing that message," John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance, said in a news release boasting about the results. He added that the result "proves that this is not a niche issue, but a national public policy that this Congress and this president should advance this year."

The new White House briefing book does include many traditional political issues, including calls to pull troops out of Iraq, close down the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and investigate "potential war crimes" by the Bush administration, as someone named "Fish" wrote in one entry. Vague calls to increase "openness and transparency" and "bring back the Constitution" were also popular.

The White House, of course, focused on suggestions that dovetail with their own priorities. In a video accompanying the release of the briefing book on Monday, Obama said: "Many of the ideas you offer, from improving light rail transit to modernizing our energy grid to creating a new service corps, have been embraced by my administration."

The most popular sentiment in the "homeland security" category was the demand: "No More Wars on Abstract Concepts." As it happens, Obama and his aides have largely stopped using the "war on terrorism" phrase so prevalent under George W. Bush.

By Web Politics Editor  |  May 13, 2009; 1:20 PM ET
Categories:  B_Blog , New Media  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: With Credit Card Bill Vote Thurs., White House Makes a Push
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For decades, the Federal definition of marijuana has prohibited the People from growing cannabis to make useful products, and has impeded the recognition of its medical properties.
Much of the discussion is about legalizing, decriminalizing, or rescheduling marijuana.
This misses the point.

The current Federal definition of marijuana is an entire paragraph of legalese, with subparts and exceptions.
Cannabis is a plant with a myriad of uses, while marijuana is a definition with sinister connotations which is conflated with cannabis.
The time is right for a reasonable definition of marijuana which permits the States to tax and regulate the many uses of cannabis.

There is a simple definition which clears up the confusion, and maintains the popular historical understanding of marijuana.
It is just a restatement of Section 802, Item 16 of the Controlled Substances Act:
The term 'marihuana' means all parts of the smoke produced by the combustion of the plant Cannabis Sativa L.

This creates a new paradigm based on the personal use of cannabis:
A. unsmoked, licit cannabis, including hemp and medical cannabis.
B. smoked, illicit marijuana.

Even Francis L. Young, the chief administrative law judge of the Drug Enforcement Administration stated that “Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.”

If only someone in Congress would author a bill to change the Federal definition of marijuana.

After some time has elapsed, and the beneficial properties of cannabis are more widely understood, then perhaps marijuana could be moved from Schedule 1, and a civil offense of "public conversion of cannabis into marijuana" could be adopted.

With this new definition we can engender the ideals promised in the Preamble of the US Constitution, instead of contemplating secession like my governor, Rick Perry does.

Posted by: txpeloton | May 17, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

I hold that all exist with the equal right of peaceful and well-regulated pursuit of happiness.
I hold that governments are instituted to secure this inalienable right of liberty for all.
I hold that no law or constitution shall be construed to deny this self-retained right of liberty for any.
I want all politicians and judges to regulate and no longer deny or prohibit liberty.
I want all Americans and People of the World to trust in the spirit of liberty.


Posted by: WhatTthisAmericanWants | May 16, 2009 6:50 PM | Report abuse

So, I actually went through the document, and found this article's summary somewhat... lacking?

Yes, the respondants were generally in favor of decriminalization of Marijuana. Online demographics tend to be younger, and this is pretty consistent with polls that those under 50 are, as a group, open to decriminalization and regulation of marijuana, be it for medical, tax reasons, or helping to ease the cost of prison crowding by releasing non-violent offenders.

Online poker and scientology fell behind such traditional issues like revoking the Bush Tax cuts, Eliminated abstinence only education, Making American more green with light rail, and closing guantanamo.

Really, what you're seeing is a highlighting of issues that typically don't get a lot of airtime from the media or politicians. These are issues that the majority of Americans are somewhat apathetic about, but a sizable minority feels quite passionately. I applaud the administration for making the effort to listen to the young, educated individuals to whom the internet *is* the public sphere and at least consider their points of view.

Posted by: HappyTim | May 15, 2009 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Dan Eggen's use of the written "sneer" is quite eloquent as he shows his disdain for both the internet itself, and a generation of internet users that he apparently doesn't find credible or worthy of listening to.

What he doesn't seem to understand or delve into with this 'article", is what this indicates at its core, which posters have easily caught onto and mentioned: we don't want government controlling our choices and decisions.

One of the more blatant ways government has done this is with its demonization and misinformation campaign of both marijuana and marijuana users. Some see this as transparent pandering to Big Pharma and the privatized Prison system, rather than any genuine concern for the people or objection to the activity itself.

We don't need our government telling us what's good for us and we don't need our government taking advantage of our vices. Just like we don't need Mr. Eggen's disdainful bias to over-ride the principles of good journalism and common sense.

Posted by: pjwrites | May 15, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Reality Check Time you Libbie Bozos!

Sure, O'Bomba bragged about doing drugs! He knew it was what so many gullible young Voters craved to hear!

Suckered you right in didn't he?!


NOW, he is a Lawyer! A Lawyer who as George Will is exposing, is very adept at tweaking Laws! Criminally!

Lawyers will NEVER Legalize, or better yet-REGULATE;

Un-"Controlled Substances"!

When it comes to the FACTS, that Americans could usurp the World markets, develop and Market safely produced and Quality Controlled Product that would yield BILLIONS in Taxes-all while keeping the Money here, rather than places the producers are now;

Lawyers are DEAF and DUMB!

Try Businessmen! Maybe a Venture Capitalist!

Now, Where did I see a Venture Capitalist Businessman who JUST MIGHT decide controlling a Problem could far outweigh the Disasters inherent in an UN-CONTROLLED situation like we have now;

is a Capitalistic Better way?!

Posted by: SAINT---The | May 14, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

This is a wonderful example of just why no-one should ever use an online poll for anything more important then "Vote for your favorite Pokemon". This poll was deliberately skewed by a small group of internet-savvy "griefers" known as Anonymous. Scientology is one of their current targets and they co-ordinated an attack on this poll using multiple aliases and IP addresses on one of their forums (whyweprotest) in order to skew the result against Scientology. I have no doubts that the other minority issues saw similar "rigging".
Ps - I vote for Bulbasaur (anonymous prefers Mudkip).

Posted by: iseewutudidthere | May 14, 2009 9:58 AM | Report abuse

The opinion poll reflected things the government SHOULD and COULD do something about. For example, Scientology is a disgraceful, blatant misuse of government money by a bogus mind-control business that historical record shows took on religious cloaking for tax breaks and to avoid conflict with the medical community. Now Scientology sets out to "obliterate" a respected medical profession, and take over schools and government, because they believe they are above the law. They operate like a crime syndicate rather than a religion, and they have coerced and bribed tax officials to get SPECIAL tax status, ABOVE other religions. Their brainwashing classes are tax deductible whereas those of other religions aren't.

Posted by: MrGrug | May 14, 2009 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Although this Washington Post article mocks the poll, the overall theme of it is that Americans want government smaller. Stop putting laws on us that we don't want, stop going to wars, and stop ignoring us. It is sad that this used to be what the Republican party stood for, if they could only get back to that they may find support once again.

The one poster was right who said that there never will be a time when there aren't other more important things to be done, but that doesn't mean these 'supposed' less significant issues should not be addressed.

This site constantly writes articles on how the mainstream media keeps reinforcing old time stereotypes, it is a shame that more people aren't listening.

However, the Internet has given us regular folk a voice, and that voice will continually grow stronger to where sooner or later you main stream media outlets, and thus politicians, will have to take us seriously.

I wish that would start with the Washington Post.

Posted by: timdd | May 14, 2009 2:19 AM | Report abuse

Prohibition and our failed Drug war have cost the lives of tens of thousands over the years and this is not a pressing issue? Marijuana Laws affect the Lives of MILLIONS of Americans every year and Negativity touch upon every issue Dan mentioned to be important in the first place. Dan wants us all to keep talking about the same crap forever. While all the issues he had mentioned are important, they are always there and never go away. Are we supposed to wait until Americas are out of a conflict before we talk about an issue that has been creating trouble and ruing countless lives for 70YRS? The most recent Zogby poll showed 52% of Americans support Marijuana legalization. That's the First time ever a nationally recognized poll showed legal marijuana in favor. This article ought to be about how the Minority of Taxpayers can arrest and jail the Majority of taxpayers in a democratic society.

Posted by: drtodd1977 | May 13, 2009 8:23 PM | Report abuse

The citizens have spoken! If Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, and LA Times (just to mention a few) continue to publish articles about the desire of mainstream America, to change the laws related to marijuana, maybe the truth will sink in.

I for one am really glad to see online poker also in the "Citizens Briefing Book" because my friends and I like to smoke weed while we play at

Posted by: reefersmoke | May 13, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

If alcohol is legal, then so should pot. Think of all the money to be saved when cops energy is devoted to other, more serious crimes.

Posted by: adrienne_najjar | May 13, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Restore our rights and legalize Marijuana! Our citizens are being arrested and their rights ignored everyday because of the lies told about a simple herbal medicine. No one has ever died from using marijuana but thousands have lost their lives during enforcement of these unjust laws. Over 800,000 US citizens were arrested last year alone. We, the normal everyday citizens need to rise up and be heard. Legalize Marijuana, NOW!

Posted by: PR420 | May 13, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

I don't smoke it myself but I agree that marijuana should be legalized. We have wasted far too much of our resources for far too many years trying to impose a 1930's moral framework on our citizens. Stop this tremendous waste of money and lives and start paying attention to issues that are important and will provide something positive to society.

Posted by: mycroftt | May 13, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

What can I say that hasn't been said a thousand times?
Marijuana is just a plant, not processed poison like alcohol. If pot is illegal, alcohol should be, too.
Taxes from marijuana sales, in liquor stores and not to anyone under 21, certainly would help the economy. Currently, millions of dollars in marijuana sales go untaxed.
But then, an old toker friend said that the government would just mess things up, so maybe all those dollars should stay underground.

Posted by: spro | May 13, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Yes, that's what we want. Pot should be legal. Mexico just legalized possession of small amounts of all drugs. Switzerland just legalized heroin. Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001 and their experience has been positive. Now if you are caught with a 10 day supply of your drug or less you face an administrative court, not a criminal court, but in practice they are just not arresting people. A group of 10,000 very serious policemen, prosecutors, attorneys and citizens have formed a group to legalize ALL drugs, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition ( ) They see what happened when we legalized alcohol in 1932 as a good example of how drug legalization would work. This foolish war on drugs has lasted 37 years and cost us over a TRILLION dollars and we are not an inch closer to stopping drugs. How many millions of Americans are we going to lock up in prison for decades? Mark Montgomery

Posted by: boboberg | May 13, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

MARIHUANA Victimizes Children. Families DO Not Want To Encourage Such LawLess courts Upon themselves & Will Agree Upon Proven Legalization standard, JUST To Protect Family Members, from Such Horrible Problems Churned Up By Same der 'd well sales "trainees".

When Marijuana IS Legal, COPS Won't SELL MariHuana.


Posted by: thomasxstewart1 | May 13, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

It's inconceivable that Americans could actually support ending the war on drugs, is it Dan? Phone surveys indicate that the biggest problem facing the country is the economy — well obviously. Does that mean that you expect people to write in to the "briefing book" asking the president to "fix the ecomomy"? That would be a REALLY DUMB thing to ask for.

By contrast, legalization of marijuana is a concrete suggestion that has potential to alleviate some very real issues in American society.

But please, Dan, continue to have disdain for the Internet. I'm sure it'll go away soon enough.

Posted by: goaway41 | May 13, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

We spend millions trying to prevent its use and only succeed in creating a short market that helps raise the price for drug dealers to profit from. Al Capone got rich when prohibition was enacted because it removed competition and increased the value of his product. He gained and maintained a monopoly with the help of the authorities. Instead of prohibiting pot we need to legalize it, then tax the hell out of it. We need to prohibit companies who are in the pharma business, tobacco or alcohol business from participating or owning shares or using derivatives of the product in their product lines. Legal to grow for personal use. License to grow required and taxed like a liquor license.

Posted by: fredpage6002 | May 13, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

You cannot tell me that alcohol and cigarettes [and fast food for another] are worse for your health than marijuana! The whole witch hunt with marijuana started back in the 1930's and was based more on fiction than reality.

The prohibition against pot is completely arbitrary and nonsensical. I am surprised Obama does not consider this issue more objectively rather than wave it away summarily. It really shows his true colors -- that is more of a defender of the status quo than an agent of change.

Posted by: winoohno | May 13, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

"This is not the first time that Obama has been hounded by Web-proficient marijuana supporters. One of the most popular questions submitted to an "online town hall" hosted by Obama in March was whether legalizing marijuana would help grow the economy; the president said he didn't think it was a good strategy."


That last sentence is what makes Obama just another P.O.S. politician.

Before he was elected POTUS, Obama said, "The war on drugs has been an utter failure. We need to rethink and decrimiinalize our marijuana laws."

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | May 13, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: JakeD | May 13, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

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