After my anti-Obama peace prize rant of two weeks ago, this morning I wake up to discover that Obama is issuing a directive telling federal law officials not to pursue prosecutions of pot-smoking patients in states that have legalized medical marijuana. (Details are here.)
This isn't quite the first thing I've agreed on with Obama. I thought he was correct to raise the federal restrictions on funding of stem-cell research. (Though, I always was bothered that the Bush policy was misrepresented, since it was referred to as a ban, when, in fact, the research was still legal with private or state money.) I also think that pulling back on deploying a missile defense shield makes sense. We are out of money; the Soviet Union was, according to some interpretations of history, bankrupted by an arms race with the US. We are now being bankrupted by much smaller, weaker states, or even non-states. Osama bin Laden spent a few thousand dollars to engineer 9-11. The cost of us launching a war against terrorism in response is arguably over a trillion dollars by now, all of it funded by debt. Some pundits say that we need to build the missile shield to guard against Iranian missiles. But, again, it's asymmetric; we're spending tens, if not hundreds, of billions of dollars of borrowed money to defend against weapons that, like Saddam's mythical nukes and bio-weapons, may not even exist. (The missiles exist, yes, but a nuclear warhead is highly debatable.)
If we were a nation running a budget surplus, I might feel generous about spending ten billion here or ten billion there to defend Poland or Hungary. But we're a nation $10 trillion in the red. We are far more vulnerable to economic warfare at this point than we are to missile strikes.
Anyway back to pot: I will again be critical of Obama in saying that I wish he'd gone further. I would have liked to see him declare the 80 year old war against pot over entirely and just go ahead and legalize it all. It would save money, and maybe even earn some dough if we taxed it like cigarettes and booze. I have never smoked pot. Never even been interested. But, the pot smokers I've known have been pretty ordinary people, holding down full-time jobs, raising kids, even attending churches. The drug remains illegal only because no serious politician has the courage to come out and say what everyone knows: it's just not that dangerous. As for the argument that it's a gateway drug, I would argue that if it is a gateway, it's solely because it's illegal. Right now, if you want to buy pot, you have to do so on the black market, where other, more harmful drugs, are also going to be available. Make it legal, and you could buy it in grocery stores along with beer and cigarettes--it would mainly be a gateway drug to potato chips, which really are dangerous to your health, but that's a whole different blog post.