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Obama's First High-Tech Town Hall

Obama's Internet town hall today. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

The White House's first online town hall mined the discontents of a nation upset about schools, worried about mortgages and college costs, despairing over lost jobs, eager for universal health care -- and, oh yes, yearning for the legalization of marijuana.

Okay, the marijuana question was a good example of the downsides of Internet voting. But overall, I would say that this experiment was a roaring success.

Obama answered seven questions posed by -- and voted up or down by -- Internet users. Some 92,000 people submitted 104,000 questions and cast 3.6 million votes.

The questions tended to take a longer view than those raised by reporters at Tuesday's press conference. But like the other town hall meetings Obama has held, this one may have been less about answering the questions and more about turning Washington's attention to what's troubling the rest of the country.

The first question Obama answered was about our "woefully inadequate" educational system. Another question was about getting help with mortgage payments. Another was a plea for a single-payer health care system.

And then there was the marijuana question. Credit Obama with bowing to the vicissitudes of the Internet and addressing an issue that is obviously not high on the national agenda (pun intended). Several marijuana questions were among the most popular in the voting, including the top vote-getter. Obama, calling it a "fairly popular" question, summarized it mockingly as asking "whether legalizing marijuana would improve the economy and job creation."

"I don't know what this says about the online audience," Obama said. "The answer is no, I don't think that is a good strategy to grow our economy."

(The full question, by the way, from a Ryan Palmer of Dallas, was: "With over 1 out of 30 Americans controlled by the penal system, why not legalize, control, and tax marijuana to change the failed war on drugs into a money making, money saving boost to the economy? Do we really need that many victimless criminals?" Tech President has a list the top questions in each subcategory.)

And, for the record, the question about jobs -- "When can we expect the jobs that have been outsourced to other countries to come back to be made available to the unemployed workers here in the United States?" from Harriet in George -- only got three votes, but was evidently chosen because it came with a YouTube video -- and reflected a common concern.

Obama's responses were long, lucid and not particularly memorable. In fact, in answer to a question about helping the auto industry from his live audience -- which included teachers, nurses, small business owners and community leaders -- the president explicitly opted not to make news, saying he would make some announcements on that subject soon.

Obama took a question from Richard from San Diego: "Why can we not have a universal health care system like many European countries, where people are treated based on needs, rather than financial resources?"

"I actually want a universal health care system," Obama replied. "That is our goal. I think we should be able to provide health insurance to every American that they can afford and that provides them high quality."

And while he spoke highly of the system in Canada or the United Kingdom, where tax dollars pay for automatic universal coverage, he said that wouldn't be a good fit for America. "The problem is, is that we have what's called the legacy set of institutions that aren't that easily transformed," he said.

Employer-sponsored health care "may not be the best system if we were designing it from scratch, but that's what everybody's accustomed to, that's what everybody's used to. It works for a lot of Americans. And so I don't think the best way to fix our health care system is to suddenly completely scrap what everybody is accustomed to and the vast majority of people already have. Rather what I think we should do is to build on the system that we have and fill some of these gaps. And I'm looking to Congress to work with me to find that optimal system."

Obama's liveliest response may have come in response to a teacher's question about how he defined effectiveness. After talking about the steps he's propose to help teachers improve, he confronted the questioner by daring her to deny knowing teachers whose classrooms she would not put her child in.

In fact, another of the takeaways from today's session is that, for better or worse, our president can talk at length about almost anything, including federal procurement. "Thanks for paying attention," he said at the end.

By Dan Froomkin  |  March 26, 2009; 1:28 PM ET
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"Okay, the marijuana question was a good example of the downsides of Internet voting. But overall, I would say that this experiment was a roaring success."

I find that opinion disappointing and reflective of the beltway mentality, Dan. Just because legalization is not on the radar of news organizations doesn't make it a silly fringe topic, and this poll - which bypasses the media "seriousness" filter - demonstrates that. People have been banging this drum for decades with only marginal results because of attitudes like this. Our drug laws are senselessly draconian and there's not a thing wrong with demanding reform, economic trouble or not.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | March 26, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Big Tuna Tim that the legalization of marijuana is not a fringe question, that the current policy has bad effects on millions of people, even those who never smoke. It only seems like a fringe question because nobody is allowed to discuss it. The online readers who put this question are far more representative of current thinking among the general public than the established media which never allow the question to be raised.

Posted by: smuhlberger | March 26, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

I agree with BigTunaTim, the idea of what is "realistic" and "rediculous" seems to still be based on a "consensus" that has been built up by lobbyists, politicians, think tanks and columnists.

Out in the real world, everybody knows that prohibition of alcohal caused criminals to control the alcohol business. Ending prohibition took almost all of the crime out of the production and sales of Alcohol. People under the influence of alcohol still commit crimes and people under the influence of drugs might do the same, but those crimes can be prosecuted as crimes and prevented by treatment plans for those addicted.

But the crimes involved in the production and sales of drugs could be virtually eliminated. You can bet there are drug lords in Central America paying anti-legalization lobbyists in the United States, who helps the business of drug cartels more than Republicans? No one.

But you're right we should only consider "realistic" goals like giving middle class people tax cuts, who the hell thinks that after 8 years of Bush, we really think MORE tax cuts are a priority? Are there any polls on this? Or is it just "conventional wisdom" that this is a good idea?

Posted by: BigTimePatriot | March 26, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

I second Big Tuna Tim's comment. The failed "War on drugs", just like every other meme of war on something that Republicans use to control the allocation of scarce resources to their own benefit, damn the consequences, is a sham. Substance use and abuse is most often an attempt of people to self-medicate for a variety of distressors and stressors, not the least of which is inaccessibility to safe shelter, nutritious food, reliable transportation, a job with safe working conditions and a living wage - you know - the things that have been stripped from millions of Americans!

So this is at its root a health and welfare issue and not a criminal issue. And not coincidentally, as US policy and reimbursement for treatment and services of people with mental illnesses was decimated, those most vulnerable ended up in the criminal justice system where they continue to be incarcerated, permanently stigmatized and ostracized and where over 50% of all inpatient psychiatric care is now delivered.

I think you missed the boat on this one, Dan. With hundreds of thousands of veterans who have undiagnosed and untreated/under-treated symptoms of traumatic brain injury and mental illness now being given punitive general discharges and chapter 15's which deny them VA care and benefits, guess how America will "support the troops" when they exhibit those symptoms?

You got it - they will be criminalized and caught up in the criminal justice system instead of receiving essential healthcare services in appropriate patient care settings.

Posted by: Nequals1 | March 26, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Dan, I too am disappointed to see your mocking dismissal of the marijuana question. The full question--not the president's inelegant rephrasing of it--is a sober (pun intended) and serious-minded one. The example of Prohibition provides ample argument against the continuation of drug policies that demonstrably add to crime, add to debt, and add to the prison population, with all its cascading detrimental effects. Obama took the easy way out in his response. More, it was hypocritical of him to pretend to address the question because of its popularity and then dismiss it in a jocular manner. That's the sort of response I associate with the previous occupant of the White House.

Posted by: Horrig | March 26, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Dan, you have it backward. The marijuana question is a perfect example of how the Beltway tunnel separates the establishment from the reality everyday people see. Even Hillary Clinton said yesterday the the so-called War on Drugs has been a complete failure. Dan, accept the evidence.

Posted by: lowercaselarry | March 26, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Dan, I have to join the BigTunaTim supporters. Some friends and I were discussing this issue the other day and all agreed that now may be the time to legalize pot for just this reason: revenue. Take the stress off the prison system and tax the product. End the crime wave. Let the police have more time for real crime. It makes sense, it makes money, and there may be a lot more support out there for this concept than people realize.

Posted by: gposner | March 26, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Wow!! A First!! I agree with all previous bloggers on legalization of weed issue.

Legalize it. Tax it. Regulate distribution. Same as alcohol. Go after producers who work outside the system.

Biggest problem: Home grown, spice/herb gardens.

I still think a lot of people would forgo growing their own for some USDA approved product.

Any estimate on how much revenue it would generate? (I'll bet in more than one place in corporate USA they've already done a business analysis!)

Posted by: Spectator | March 26, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

While I do side with this early majority of posters on the reasonable nature of discussing federal marijuana reform, I also believe it to be a polarizing issue. I think that while his answer was "the easy way out", any other answer would have provided "no way out" from between a rock and a hard place with significant constituencies.

It would be counter-productive to the mission of bipartisan cooperation in reviving the economy and would serve as a wedge issue. At this moment there are more important issues to take sides on and the President seems to acknowledge and respect this view.

Federal decriminalization of marijuana is the kind of issue you see in 2nd term proposals. I wouldn't expect it until that particular opportunity presents itself.

Posted by: trident420 | March 26, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

As a regular reader of your column, and a great admirer of your perspective on politics, I too was disappointed by your cavalier dismissal of the marijuana question. Our current drug policy is crazy, and BigTimePatriot is totally correct in divining that the biggest ally of the drug cartels is the War on Drugs crowd. Decriminalizing marijuana, and emptying the prisons of people who are doing time for victimless crimes involving same, sounds like a win-win proposition to me -- it would decrease violent crime, cut costs, and free law enforcement for more pressing needs. Obama's election demonstrated that change can happen. I only wish that you, Dan, would play a more constructive role on this issue, as you have on so many others.

Posted by: SeattleVoter | March 26, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

"Okay, the marijuana question was a good example of the downsides of Internet voting."

Why? I don't understand this attitude. Out here in the "grass roots" it is a very legitimate and often discussed topic.

Posted by: Wadsworth1 | March 26, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Honestly, the comments here demonstrate the problem with internet questions like these. If you polled an actual average section of Americans and asked them what one topic they would ask the president, I promise you marijuana wouldn't be in the top ten vote-getters. But on the internet, as Mr> Colbert proves time and again, you can get a motivated minority to flood the voting and push anything to the top. I'm all for legalizing marijuana, but it's really not a majority of our economic problems, or a majority of prison problems, etc. It's a fringe topic. Pure and simple.

Posted by: PMMJ | March 26, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

At yesterday's press conference and again today there is a deafening silence about Geithner's toxic asset bailout plan. Taxpayers are going to lose everything on this fraud. THE BANKS ARE INSOLVENT!!! It is time to put them into receivership so we can work our way out of this mess. Geithner's plan only delays the inevitable and that delay is going to cost us greatly.

Obama is doing a good job of shifting the focus away from this mess - WE NEED TO HOLD OBAMA ACCOUNTABLE FOR GEITHNER'S TERRIBLE PLAN!!

Posted by: matt_ahrens | March 26, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Only in the Beltway do you not understand that most Middle Class taxpayers are sick and tired of paying for your insane Drug War against Marijuana.

It doesn't work, it never did, and all it does is lock up and push through overloaded courts and jails that should contain CEOs and CFOs people who otherwise are productive members of society.

We are sick of paying more than 50 percent of our Municipal and County taxes for prisons and jails just because of this.

As to single payer healthcare - we know the rich and ultra-rich object to it, but the reality is Canadians live 8 to 10 years LONGER than Americans because they have it. We could provide TWICE the health care per American for HALF the price we pay now.

Just do it and stop whining!

Posted by: WillSeattle | March 26, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

I have to say I too, agree with BigTuna. Marijuana does have proven medicinal uses, and the legalization, regulation and taxation of the plant would provide a large source of revenue to the government as well as deflate a part of the 'raison d'etre' of the cartels

Posted by: csaw1 | March 26, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

I agree with all the folks above. We in the cannabis community want a serious public debate about marijuana Prohibition. Obama claims to follow science, and GOVERNMENT researchers (1898, 1944, 1972, 1991) have all sided with marijuana law reformers. Marijuana in and of itself causes relatively little harm compared to its legal counterparts (alcohol and tobacco, each of which are killers), and to cavalierly dismiss our obviously very popular opinions is offensive and demeaning.

Would you rather buy pot in a regular shop, or from your shady dealer who gets it from cartels in Mexico? It will be bought either way.

Posted by: ed_mccann | March 26, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Agree that you missed the point on the drug legalization, Dan. The War on Drugs is a drain on the public coffers.

Posted by: Appalled | March 26, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

I am no fan of the prohibition of marijuana. However, I find that a lot of people who want to legalize marijuana usage have an overly rosy view of what that legalization will entail.

The cigarette companies are currently in the best position to capitalize on the legalization of marijuana. In a short period of time they would transition tobacco farmers to marijuana and could use much of their existing packaging and distribution system.

At a time when we are all but prohibiting the use of tobacco it seems schizophrenic to allow the use of marijuana. If you asked most Americans the question of whether they wanted to double the business of the tobacco companies by providing them with another product, I think a lot of people would say no.

But, I do agree it is a serious question. The notion that the current set of legal drugs is the only possible set is not even borne out by recent history. I feel this is another issue where we seem unable to have an adult discussion, which is rather sad.

Posted by: fletc3her | March 26, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Obama promised change. With regard to legalizing marijuana, how can the laws regarding this ever be changed if none are willing to address what the public wants?

The responses to this article are a notable example of clearly demonstrating what the public wants. At least the public that reads Mr Froomkin’s articles…

Posted by: tracy_leb | March 26, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

I'm starting to think we may be getting to the point where the American public is finally ready to do something about the BS coming from Washington, the Press and Wall St. It's long paased due and I have been patiently waiting for this time to come.

I voted for Obama because I wanted to see if he could speak honestly and forthrightly. Though, I think Obama was the better choice, I have some doubts about his veracity. I understand he has to carefully measure his words at this time in his presidential career. However moderates, such as myself have a keen eye for BS and would be more willing to keep supporting a president who has some guts.

The perception is that Obama is just another tool for Wall St and corporate fat cat execs. I'd like to see that disproven some time soon. Otherwise, I'm changing from Democrat to Independent.

I am ok with giving my vote to a reasonable Independent with a spine even if they have no chance of winning. it's not like my vote will make that much of a difference anyway at this time.

Posted by: tazmodious | March 26, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Lot of pot smokers here. You are aware that smoking pot significantly increases your chances of getting testicular cancer?

My view is that legalizing marijuana will not eliminate the drug cartels. Marijuana is more of a side business for them. They make far more money off of cocaine, heroine and meth. Should we legalize them? Maybe, but I think if we did connected crimes, like burglary and robbery, would go through roof as drug addicts looked for money to get their fix.

We would be better off reducing the demand for illegal drugs instead of trying to control the supply as we do now in the so called war on drugs. By all means let's change the war on drugs, but legalizing marijuana would not solve the problem.

I agree with the previous commenter if we did legalize it we now have essentially a new cigarette which will create a new class of health problems like smoking did. Anybody lining up to pay for that?

Posted by: troyd2009 | March 26, 2009 4:34 PM | Report abuse

while I agree with the Legalizers poting on this site, you have to understand that it is (unfortunately)politically impossible for Obama to come out for legalization. It is such a polarizing issue that it would imperil his entire agenda.
What I would suggest to Obama is that he take a hard look at hemp and all the wonderful products that can be produced from this wonder plant. It could help to solve many of the problems in rural/agrarian america.

Posted by: NMModerate1 | March 26, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Mr Froomkin, you are spending too much time inside the beltway if you think marijuana legalization is a petty issue not worth of discussion. It would save massive amounts of money (empty some jails, put police on more important work) and raise money (from farmers to taxation). Please be more thoughtful in the future so you don't turn into Richard 'the only people who doubt Iraq has WMDs are fool..or French!' Cohen

Posted by: marcedward1 | March 26, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

"The cigarette companies are currently in the best position to capitalize on the legalization of marijuana. In a short period of time they would transition tobacco farmers to marijuana and could use much of their existing packaging and distribution system."

I disagree. The cigarette companies make gobs of cash because they sell an addictive product. Marijuana is not addictive and therefore would not have a market as large as tobacco cigarettes. Smokers are able to consume 20-40 cigarettes per day because of their addictive qualities and lack of real-time side effects. Marijuana cigarettes would not be consumed at any where near this level by users.
I actually don't think there would be much money to be made from marijuana by the government, because once legal, most people would just grow their own or have cooperative arrangments with their friends.

Posted by: NMModerate1 | March 26, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

@troyd2009: "Lot of pot smokers here."

Oy. Exactly the attitude I decried in my original post before I edited that part out. Is it so hard to believe that some people are able to examine the pros and cons and come down on the side of legalization based on the evidence alone, and not merely because they just want to get home and smoke a bowl?

"Should we legalize them? Maybe, but I think if we did connected crimes, like burglary and robbery, would go through roof as drug addicts looked for money to get their fix."

This persistent myth makes no economic sense. Drug prices are extremely high because the risk that dealers incur is great and supply is artificially low. Addicts rob and steal to pay for these overpriced drugs. Done properly, legalization drastically decreases prices for the same reasons stated above. Connected crimes go DOWN when prices fall as addicts are more easily able to afford them without needing to resort to crime.

Most amazingly of all, none of this has to be taken on faith. Much of the continent of Europe is a living testament to the positive aspects of legalization or decriminalization. For all the billions we spend fighting the War on Some Drugs and all the people we've thrown in prison, we still have the worst rate of drug abuse in the world.

So we have that going for us, which is nice.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | March 26, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse

There are a lot of people in prison in NYS for mandatory drug sentences, including marijuana "offenses" as a result of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. (I hadn't thought of comment on the issue until I saw previous comments.)

I was disappointed that one had to have had the question put somewheres in advance and voted on. Why not some "live blogging" try-out sometime? One could hire several people to monitor laptops or whatever...I'm sure some hackers, tech jockeys could help out with "how to".

So much pre-screening and where were the foreign policy questions? Not much different from the press conference, with the marijuana ques. exception. I am feeling rather sad at some of Obama's carry-over policies from the Bush Admin. NO, not sad, angry. Drones/missiles into Pakistan. just keeps listing all kinds of things, as does the Guardian and DemocracyNow

Single-payer Medicare for all. We have to push for it.

Roll back the military spending; declare "peace" and really mean it. See DemocracyNow for the cosmetic name change of military staying on in Iraq; same groups (I don't know military jargon for divisions, etc.) with new name: advisers, etc. Today's show:transcript and video online.

When do the progressives get to ask questions of the President?

Posted by: NYCartist | March 26, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

But people, don't you know that Europe is a completely decadent awful society, a nest of socialism and atheism? Of course a place like that has legalized drugs! They also believe in birth control as part of sex education!! Why should we want to emulate Europe? They didn't even want to join us in the war in Iraq!!!!

: P

Posted by: herzliebster | March 26, 2009 6:08 PM | Report abuse

I'm yet another poster who found the marijuana question to be legitimate, and not worthy of your shallow dimissal. State legislators in Mn are trying to INCREASE penalties for tiny amounts of pot, even as others argue for medical marijuana use decriminalization. Billions are wasted, 10's of thousands incarcerated chasing weed sellers and users. We use anti-democratic constructs like "drug czars" as if a dictatorship is the answer to a public health issue. Pathetic. Yet the "war on drugs" will flounder onward, because serious people suspend their reasoning when the word "drug" is involved.

Posted by: Mill_in_Mn | March 26, 2009 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Dan, I am another who's disappointed with your flip dismissal of an issue that resonates strongly with many citizens---particularly those with afflictions that could be eased by medical marijuana as well as those who have a family member jailed for using a drug the President has tried. Big Tuna Tim is right. Take this issue a little more seriously---and look at the actual costs (fielding the DEA and prosecutor and trial time and imprisonment costs) compared to the effectiveness (zilch), and add in the revenue lost to the state because there's no taxation...

I thought it was an excellent question. Apparently, though, in DC it's not something to be mentioned or treated seriously.

Posted by: Leisureguy | March 26, 2009 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Another vote for BigTunaTim. The marijuana laws in this country are absolutely ridiculous. Regulating, taxing and selling it seems to work very well in the Netherlands.

Although I have been disappointed with President Obama in several respects, it's easy to understand why he dismissed the subject out of hand--taking on that particular issue at this time would be simply giving the rabid right a club to beat him with. But that doesn't change the fact that the laws should be changed.

Posted by: nicekid | March 26, 2009 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Dan, you might want to attend this talk by Glenn Greenwald on Portugal's experience with drug decriminalization:

Posted by: Leisureguy | March 26, 2009 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Add my voice to those who thought the marijuana question was dismissed too casually. When you think about the billions of dollars that have been wasted for decades, the young lives that have been disrupted, the rise of violent drug cartels in Latin and South America, and more, you can see that this -- no matter whether you are for or against legalization -- is a serious matter. Yes, the country does have more important things on its plate right now, but it is definitely a topic worthy of national debate in the future. Hopefully, by then, you'll treat the topic with the respect it deserves.

Posted by: truthman3 | March 26, 2009 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Dan, it looks like you have a topic for your next blog post. People are talking about marijuana decriminalization a LOT these days.

Posted by: SeamusFurr | March 26, 2009 7:13 PM | Report abuse

"But overall, I would say that this experiment was a roaring success"

Wow! Froomkin praising Obama? That's almost as shocking as Froomkin bashing Bush.

If the Post thought having a hyper-partisan liberal covering Bush was the right thing to do, at least they could have gotten a hyper-partisan conservative to cover Obama. But hey, nobody ever accused the Post of being fair.

Posted by: bobmoses | March 26, 2009 7:23 PM | Report abuse

So the questions came only from, indoctranated minions.
With no follow up questions to boot.

WOW, it must have been a tough.

Posted by: dashriprock | March 26, 2009 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Allow me to pause and congratulate my fellow Americans on their eminent good sense concerning regulation of the killer weed...

As someone who smoked dope for more than fifty years, (I have recently quit, largely because the thrill is gone) both casually and intensely, I feel no adverse effects. I'm seventy-two years old and my doctor told me recently that with blood pressure such as mine I could live 'forever'.

Surprise surprise, Dan. You've warned us for years about the insular, arrogant, and ignorant views of the Washington elite (whoever they are)and now you find yourself caught up among them. Take a short holiday in El Paso and cross over to Ciudad Juarez. And take a bullet proof vest with you...

The efforts of the knuckle draggers in the DEA and the bloviating lard bottoms in the US Congress have not done one thing to alleviate the 'drug problem' one little skerrick. Legalize weed, and while you're at legalize heroin, cocaine, speed LSD, shrooms, mescaline and aspirin and coca cola..

And why can't we recommend each others comments anymore?

Posted by: ruinedbruin | March 26, 2009 8:09 PM | Report abuse

I think we all just want to spark a big ol' J with Froomkin, and now we're afraid he'd get mad if we asked... \=^(

Posted by: mobedda | March 26, 2009 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Legalizing marijuana is still a generation away. Until then we have to put up with the flawed narrow minded hypocrites of the "baby boomer" generation. This group will forever be remembered for giving our nation George W for eight years, protesting the Viet Nam war while weak kneed on the Iraq war, smoking pot but too lazy to reform it and reading how great their 401K money was doing while greedy corporations cooked their books and robbed them blind. The boomers are a bust. Time to move on.

Posted by: RMB2 | March 26, 2009 9:01 PM | Report abuse

Our shortsighted drug policies feed the Mexican cartels, who are in the process of turning Mexico into a blood-soaked failed state.

The senseless prohibition of marijuana has become a major national security issue for both the United States and Mexico. It is not a joke.

Posted by: JohnAdams2 | March 26, 2009 10:30 PM | Report abuse

since everyone is posting about the marijuana question I guess I'll put in my 2 cents.
I honestly do not think all that many people here in the midwest really cares about it being legalized.
They see it as a waste of money and time over a drug that is harmless for the most part and does alot for those in pain and suffering.
But, to the posters, Froomkin is suffering not just being inside the beltway, but a beltway that has been conditioned by 30 years of conservative thinking and beliefs. No matter how open minded, you are going to be affected by your environment and the media is very much center right in it's thinking.
They treat the idea of universal health care as scary and socialist! The idea of investing in schools as wasting money and think the Wall street CEOs are really masters of the universe.
So, to them, marijuana is a fringe idea as laughable as it seems.
Most of the media is stuck in Bushworld and sees most ideas in the center or center left, or even in the majority in the rest of the country as fringe left.
Go figure.

Posted by: vwcat | March 26, 2009 10:52 PM | Report abuse

Another vote for Big Tuna. Dan, I'd like to see you respond to these posts with a serious response.

Posted by: hoos3014 | March 26, 2009 11:06 PM | Report abuse

The country is insolvent and people want to get stoned. I guess that sums up why we're in the fix we're in.

What a distraction. I scored 50 questions on the website yesterday and gave up after 40 dealt with dope.

Its accurate that legalization of marijuana will reduce certain drug crimes and get the DEA to focus on hard drugs. But the potential tax collections from marijuana will be about the same as state lotteries, perhaps 1% of state budgets. Whoopee, California, where I live, will only be $41 billion in debt instead of $42 billion.

(and for the record, I spent some time living in Car Top dome in Drop City, lived for years a few blocks from Haight+Ashbury, smoked spliffs in Negril, and have vacationed in Mendocino for 35 years, )

Posted by: boscobobb | March 27, 2009 3:46 AM | Report abuse

How Obama Should Help The Economy

The Stock Market and the jobless rate continue to slide into negative territory since Obama's election. Both are voting No to Obamas various schemes and he continues to not get it. Irresponsible federal spending, Cap & Trade programs that will hurt manufacturing, increased taxes that will stifle small business job creation, threats of more regulation, planned Federal Judge appointments that are not favorable to tort reform and a host of other ideas are not the sort of things that make the business community feel optimistic. In addition, all of Obamas talk of big changes and government solutions mean that business can't clearly plan so they wait, shrink and posture their business plans in a defensive manner.
The fact that Obama either does not care or does not understand that he is scaring the hell out of the U.S business community is nothing short of amazing, given that he seems like a bright fellow.

A promise of fiscal responsibility, predictably constant taxes, no cap & trade schemes, judicial appointments that are not activist in nature, and a level or reduced capital gains tax is what will turn the market around and get business hiring again.

Posted by: smokedsalmoned | March 27, 2009 7:08 AM | Report abuse

Lots of comments about legalizing marijuana. Personally, I'd like to see it treated like alcohol or cigarettes - let existing laws take care of consequences like driving while under the influence (or modify them as necessary), assuming that reliable, easily administered tests can be developed.

One thing that I haven't seen mentioned here is that if we do legalize marijuana, we'll need to be prepared for the drug gangs' reaction. I don't think they'll be ready to give up a large revenue stream, and will probably fight hard for their survival.

Posted by: apn3206 | March 27, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

The state of New York will start saving $250 million A YEAR by relaxing the harsh Rockefeller drug laws:

A quarter of a billion here, a quarter of a billion there, and next thing you know we have some reserves to fight the recession.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | March 27, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Adam Serwer over at American Prospect explains well, I believe, why the president dismissed the marijuana question:

"Placing the question in the context of 'boosting the economy' made it a joke. If the question had been framed entirely as a question of failed policy, brutality, and freedom, I doubt Obama would have laughed. There are plenty of reasons to change our drug policy: the deaths caused by paramilitary enforcement, our swelling prisons and swelling budgets, and the knowledge that our current approach does nothing to reduce drug use or demand.

"But 'growing the economy' is far from the most compelling, and asking the question that way basically invites derision."

Here's the URL:

Posted by: paxr55 | March 27, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

I am 56 years old and I've been hearing about -- and paying taxes to support -- the "war on drugs" for my entire adult life. It gets old, paying all those cops and lawyers and prison guards in a failed effort to keep Americans from choosing pot over booze or pharmaceutical painkillers.

If people want to smoke marijuana, it's fine with me, as long as they don't drive or otherwise put themselves into a position to harm others if they're stoned.

Those of you who don't want anyone to use marijuana can still give to antidrug media campaigns or wave signs on street corners.

But please, stop spending my (tax) money to enforce laws that never should have been passed in the first place.

Posted by: roblimo | March 30, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

The War on Drugs is nothing less than a declaration of war by our government on our rights as citizens and I further claim that it was the first shot in the Conservatives' war on Civil Rights. Pot is a harmless plant, but using propaganda and racism our government puts latinos and African Americans into jails, while under Reagan the government actually imported drugs to launder money for genocide in Central America and trade with terrorists and Iraq and Iran. These are not unconnected things; the drug war is a war on America, North South and Central, and it kills us all. Legalize pot and you have a major cash crop and huge sales of pizza, other fast food, snack items and soda, let alone paraphernalia and knicknacks that pot culture loves to have around. Free America by liberating the drug laws.

Posted by: sparkplug1 | March 30, 2009 8:19 PM | Report abuse

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