Opinion: Web lights up with protests over Obama’s dismissal of marijuana legalization

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President Obama probably didn’t anticipate that his brief dismissal of marijuana legalization during the online town hall would light up a potent movement of support for decriminalization.

The fact that he even addressed such a controversial and oft-ignored topic impressed some. But the way he seemed to deride the question angered manywho quickly expressed their dissent online in website comments, on blogs and throughout social networks.


‘There was one question that was voted on that ranked fairly high and that was whether legalizing marijuana would improve the economy and job creation,’ the president said during the town hall, amongst a thunder of laughter from the crowd. ‘And I don’t know what this says about the online audience.’ More laughter.

‘The answer is, no, I don’t think that is a good strategy to grow our economy,’ Obama said.

No further explanation given. Next question.

His short response was not only disconcerting for marijuana supporters but also a bit perplexing. After all, Obama called for marijuana decriminalization during ...

... a debate at Northwestern University when he was running for U.S. Senate in 2004.

The legalization debate is not a new topic for websites like YouTube, Digg and Facebook, where a pot-smoking niche has long congregated. But it has exploded in the days since the town hall.

The Huffington Post prominently featured an editorial titled ‘Pot Saved My Life, Mr. President.’ In it, the writer concluded, ‘The president will be asked this question again, and maybe next time he won’t laugh at us.’

The Times had a story Sunday quoting former federal judge Jim Gray claiming the war on drugs had failed and that pot should be legal. The so-called failed drug war was, incidentally, the same claim made by Obama in 2004.


The lit-up lobby rages strongly on social networking channels as well. The Facebook page, called M A R I J U A N A, has seen a spike in membership as of late.

And on the social news website Digg, a story about marijuana benefits, decriminalization or reactions to Obama’s weedy treatment of the pot question has been voted to the home page every day since the town hall -- and in many cases, multiple times a day.

So what doesthat say about the online audience? Considering that many political analysts attribute a major part of Obama’s election to his popularity on social networks, maybe he shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss something they clearly feel strongly about.

-- Mark Milian

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Photo credit: uzi978 via Flickr