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  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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As economy goes to pot, which ‘dope’ questions should Obama answer?

Posted by James McPherson on March 26, 2009

Barack Obama is hosting an “online town hall” meeting today, continuing his Roosevelt-esque creative use of technology to try to continue to connect with Americans. Unfortunately the site, despite being named “Open for Questions,”  is “no longer accepting new questions.”

But you can still vote for the questions you hope the president will answer. A quick review of a few of the more than 32,000 questions submitted shows too many questions that could be answered by reading news accounts about Obama’s many recent appearances, but considering how many respondents don’t even read comments above their own on a blog post, that’s not surprising. Besides, not everyone follows the news as closely as some of us.

In addition–and perhaps related to the issue of people not reading before they write (the equivalent of the too-common speaking before listening), apparently a number of the questioners spend much of their time sitting around the house smoking marijuana. Many of those  folks seem to be the target of Hillary Clinton’s comments of today, but their questions go directly to points made in my post of a couple of days ago.

Under the category of “Budget,” the FIRST SEVEN questions all ask about the legalization of marijuana, starting with Ryan Palmer from Dallas who asks: “With over 1 in 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?”

Brian of Minneopolis writes: “Mr. Obama, Thank you for allowing us to ask our questions of you, unfiltered [nice pun, Brian]. What is your stance on legalizing marijuana federally, taxing it and regulating it much like alcohol and tobacco? I believe that the Drug War has failed, and needs an overhaul.”

Ryan McLaughlin (Rindge, N.H.) states, “I am not a marijuana user, but I do believe that making marijuana legal could provide  some relief as to it could be heavily taxed and regulated. Legalization of drugs will also be a detriment to the drug cartels in Latin America.”

Matt S. (Huntsville, Ala.), Mark B. (Sterling, Va.), JHawk (Santa Barbara, Calif.) and T. Kapanka (San Fransciso) round out the top seven, all asking similar marijuana-related questions.

Under the category of “Financial Stability,” the first four questions all are drug-related. Anthony of Warrington, Penn., asks, “Would you support the bill currently going through the California legislation [stet] to legalize and tax marijuana, boosting the economy and reducing drug cartel-related violence?”

Sarah of Atlanta, Ga., asks: “Have the administration given any thought to legalizing marijuana, as a cash crop to fuel the economy? Why not make it available, regulate, and tax something that about 10 million Americans use regularly and is less harmful than tobacco or alcohol.”

Peter McNamara of Minneapolis (a friend of Brian’s?) writes: “Growing up I have noticed many around me always talk about legalization of marijuana, and I always thought, why not put a tax stamp on it. If marijuana was legalized it could really change a lot of things. America had the same problem with Alcohol.”

And Andy Drake of New Brunswick, N.J., asks, “Could legalization of marijuana and laying a tax on it, given restriction allow the government make [stet] back some of the glaring debt considering it’s [stet] inelasticity and the history of economics of prohibition?”

Under the category of “Green Jobs and Energy,” the first question (from Green Machine of Manchester, Va.) asks: “Will you consider decriminalizing the recreational/medical use of marijuana (hemp) so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it [good luck with that], and create millions of new jobs and a multi-billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?” Apparently Green Machine is a farmer.

The second question in the same category comes from Ashley of Brooklyn, N.Y.: “Has your administration given any serious thought to how legalizing marijuana could help solve the economic crisis? We could tax this green product and create an influx of cash while reducing violence created by the war of [stet] drugs & illegal trafficking.”

In the first question under the category of “Jobs,” Matt B. of West Bend, Ind., asks, “What are your plans for the failing ‘War on Drugs’ that’s sucking money from taxpapers and putting non-violent people in prison longer than the violent criminals.” The third question comes from Phill of Georgetown, Mass.

Phill’s question (yes, his name has two “l’s,” though that may be an accident stemming from, well, you know…): “President Obama, do you plan on letting Science end the failed “War” on Marijuana for personal and medical use thus taking the strain off our prisons and police forces so we no longer have to arrest over 800,000 non-violent drug offenders?”

In addition, the second question under “Health Care Reform” is another marijuana question. Only the categories of “Home Ownership,” “Auto Industry,” “Veterans,” “Small Business,” and “Education” failed to see a marijuana question make the top seven (though it easily could have been an issue for at least the last three of those).

It seems obvious that if Obama is to take the town hall issue seriously–and despite Obama’s predilection for caring too much what other people think, I suspect it’s as much a ploy to look responsive more than it is to be responsive–he’ll have to go from talking smack to talking weed.

Same day update: Obama addressed–and dismissed–legalization of marijuana during today’s forum. More than 104,000 questions apparently were submitted.

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