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Russ Belville

Russ Belville

Posted: August 11, 2010 02:43 AM

That "professional left" is what some might call "your base", Mr. President, and they think you should legalize marijuana.

Washington political news outlet The Hill reports on the recent "professional left" remarks made by the Obama White House's press secretary Robert Gibbs.  Gibbs was expressing frustration at progressive activists who are complaining that the president hasn't lived up to campaign promises on a number of issues.

The press secretary dismissed the "professional left" in terms very similar to those used by their opponents on the ideological right, saying, "They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we've eliminated the Pentagon. That's not reality."

"I hear these people saying he's like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested," Gibbs said. "I mean, it's crazy."

Over 850,000 of these people will likely be arrested this year and branded "criminal" for the rest of their lives.

I don't disagree that comparing Obama to Bush is crazy; Bush could push the exact bill he wanted through Congress and Obama can pronounce "nuclear".  It's the "drug users are crazy" slur, the "drug test" variant of the "what have you been smoking?" that offends me.  It's that joking about these drug tests that ruin thousands of lives is a response from an official addressing the disappointment in the president felt by the people who voted for him.  Considering the vast majority of people who use "drugs" are using cannabis and the tests for "drugs" most often find cannabis metabolites, he's talking about us, the 22 million* Americans who will use cannabis this year.

Full disclosure: I am one of the "professional left"** and attended that Netroots Nation conference Gibbs is obliquely referencing, representing NORML on a marijuana policy panel.

Republican, Democrat, we still get arrested. (We still have another year worth of George Bush data to collect.)
But NORML is a non-partisan organization, just as arresting marijuana consumers is a bi-partisan shame (4.9 million under Clinton, 6.2 million under Bush, but Clinton's overall increase in the annual rate was +90% from beginning to end of his term while Bush's was +17% between 2001 and 2008; we still await the 2009 final year arrest numbers which chronicle the marijuana arrests from the year before... think of the graph as "arrests up to 2009", not "arrests up to and including 2009".)
Gibbs said the professional left is not representative of the progressives who organized, campaigned, raised money and ultimately voted for Obama.
Legalization is actually pretty popular right now. More popular than the President and Congress.

Well, we know what President Obama and Robert Gibbs think of those of us who "ought to be drug tested", especially us online activists in the "professional left" who helped get him elected.  We're chuckled at when we suggest legalizing marijuana (see videos below), even as more than half of America on some polls - not just Left Blogsylvania - are beginning to think it is a damn good idea and California is voting on the issue this November.

Legalization is more popular than the Congress and the President - who once, like us, was just one bust away from being "Barry the Drug Criminal" for life - so maybe equating our criticisms of the president to drug-induced psychosis isn't the smartest political move.

One marijuana arrest in their past would have indelibly altered the lives of 41% of America, including these three fellows.
This is not to ignore the millions of cannabis consumers who find themselves on the right side of the aisle, the Libertarians and true small government, personal responsibility, states rights Republicans, who we count as our ideological allies in ending adult marijuana prohibition.  There are 102 million of us who've tried cannabis, including the last three presidents and eight of fifteen of the last major party candidates for president and vice president.***  Right now, our issue is the only thing on which members of the Tea Party and the Netroots Nation can agree on.  Somebody is going to get wise and start courting our votes.

* Remember these are numbers from a government-sponsored survey where an anonymous pollster surveys random strangers by telephone to ask whether they currently are violating state and federal law... so you might want to adjust upward a bit.  For comparison's sake, there are more adults in America who will smoke pot this year than there are adult African-Americans in this country.

** And yes, I would be satisfied with Canadian health care, thank you very much!  My insurance premiums went up 24% this year!

*** The admitted / strongly suspected (Danforth, we're looking your way...) marijuana users are italicized:

1992 Clinton / Gore vs. Bush / Quayle
1996 Clinton / Gore vs. Dole / Kemp
2000 Bush / Cheney vs. Gore / Lieberman
2004 Bush / Cheney vs. Kerry / Edwards
2008 Obama / Biden vs. McCain / Palin

 

Follow Russ Belville on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RadicalRuss