President Obama, I Want Pot Legalized BECAUSE I Care About Those Issues


Let’s begin with some praise for President Obama.  While many on my side of the marijuana debate (including, at times, myself) have roundly criticized the previous leader of The Choom Gang for his failure to end the War on (Certain American Citizens Using Non-Pharmaceutical, Non-Alcoholic, Tobacco-Free) Drugs, I do have to give him credit where credit is due.  Marijuana arrests are down four years in a row and states and Native American tribes are being given the latitude to institute marijuana regulations.  Sometimes it’s what a president doesn’t do that he deserves credit for, and in this case, it was getting out of the way and letting legalization happen.  Yeah, he could rein in some renegade US Attorneys here and there, but overall, it’s been a far better experience than we’d have had under a President McCain or a President Romney.

But this quote of his from his recent VICE interview does require a rebuke:

“First of all, it shouldn’t be young people’s biggest priority…sometimes on the White House website and petitions we get the same. So let’s put it in perspective. Young people, I understand this is important to you, but you should be thinking about climate change, the economy, jobs, war and peace. Maybe way at the bottom you should be thinking about marijuana.”

I’m not a young person anymore (I’m just six years younger than the President) but I’ve dedicated my life to ending this cruel, absurd, pointless prohibition of cannabis because I care about all those issues President Obama mentioned, and more!

Climate change?  Any serious discussion of reducing greenhouse gases means turning to alternative renewable fuel sources.  Besides the biomass of industrial hemp that can be made into ethanol, there is a remarkable new development in the processing of hemp into superconductors that are more efficient and a thousand times cheaper than the current graphene superconductors.  Translated from geek speak, we’re talking about an amazingly cheap battery technology that solves a huge problem with wind, solar, tidal, and other eco-friendly power sources.  It’s not always windy or sunny or high tide, you see, and power grids work on consistent energy sources.  Today, the cost of graphene-based batteries makes it tough for those energy sources to compete with fossil fuels… but you drop the battery cost a few orders of magnitude and sunlight becomes massively efficient and profitable.  And Hempcrete – a building material that’s carbon-negative, insulative, earthquake-, pest-, fire-resistant, cheap, sustainable, and recyclable – is another hemp product that aids the fight against climate change

The economy and jobs?  Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division has issued about 10,000 of its license cards to people working directly in the marijuana industry – jobs that have benefits, union protection, and living wages.  Then there are all the jobs created in the “pick-and-shovel” industries in this modern day gold rush – the packagers, the grow shops, the insurance companies, the security companies, and so much more.  The first two states to have a year under their belt, Colorado and soon Washington, are showing and will show nine-digit gross sales revenues and eight-digit tax revenues.  Even opponents of legalization can’t help but notice “more dispensaries in Denver than Starbucks and McDonald’s combined!”  (More places than you can get a cup of coffee or a cheeseburger, though?)

War and peace?  I don’t know how or if marijuana prohibition has any effect on ISIS, Boko Harum, or Vladimir Putin (give me a week, though, and I’d find the link) but honestly, I’m not that worried about those wars.  Take a look at Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras sometime.  The violence of our drug war, like many American manufacturing jobs, has been shipped south of the border.  Upwards of 80,000 Mexicans have been slaughtered over the past decade, and not just the rival gangs, but dances full of teenagers and daycares full of children.  VICE did a tremendous feature on “The Beast”, the cargo trains that Central Americans ride through Mexico to reach the United States, fleeing in fear of the narco gangs that rule those countries with murder and coruption.  If you really want to do something about another important issue, immigration, you must stop the drug war that forces people to immigrate.

It’s so much more than legalizing marijuana.  I want to see sick kids and disabled adults and stressed veterans and traumatized victims able to use medical marijuana safely in every state, so it’s a health care issue.  I want to see police reined in from the worst abuses we saw in Ferguson, Cleveland, Oakland, and more, and the drug war fosters and funds much of that, so it’s a law enforcement and civil rights issue.  I want to see a multi-billion dollar market with 20 million adult customers to no longer benefit criminals and scofflaws, so it’s a business and crime issue.  I want to see black kids able to walk the streets without police harassment and black fathers to be able to get jobs and provide for families, so it’s a racial justice and family issue.  I want to see addicts and alcoholics to have an exit drug to turn to that won’t kill them, so it’s a public health and drug addiction issue.  I want to see responsible adult pot smokers like me not be barred from certain jobs, scholarships, medical procedures, and opportunities based not on the content of our character but on the matabolites in our urine, so it’s a equal opportunity and discrimination issue.  I want kids to be carded by pot dealers, educated by teachers and scientists, not stoners, and still eligible for a bright future even if they do experiment like some young people do, so it’s a children and education issue.

But most of all, it’s an issue that now a majority in successive polls by numerous reputable organizations over the past five years agree upon; that marijuana ought to be legalized.  With respect to medical marijuana exceptions and marijuana decriminalization, it’s an issue overwhelming supermajorities have agreed on for over a decade.  And in White House poll after poll, it’s an issue that dominates the online discussion.  So Mr. President, instead of telling us how low marijuana legalization ought to be on our list of priorities, how about you listen when we tell you why legalization should be so high.

Russ Belville

"Radical" Russ Belville is a blogger, podcaster, and host of The Russ Belville Show, a daily two-hour talk radio show focused on the evolution of the legal marijuana industry in the United States. The program is airing live at 3pm Pacific Time from Portland, Oregon, on, with podcast available on iTunes and Stitcher Radio. Russ began his marijuana activism in 2005 with Oregon NORML, then in 2009 went on to work for National NORML, and found and direct Portland 2015.