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Baracks Blunt Statement: Obama and the Marijuana Debate

The political sphere in the United States is boiling over the emerging issue of marijuana tolerance and the government’s capacity to push further legislature across the country. Twenty states have already permitted the medical use of marijuana, and the states of Colorado and Washington have recently legalized it outright. The President’s latest remarks on the issue have shocked anti-drug supporters and agencies alike. Controversy over the White House’s motives and emotion towards the legalization of the Schedule 1 substance, as currently classified by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency), includes framing the executive branch as being hypocritical and pursuing the legislation to fill a new contrivance of the federal bureaucracy. Some have gone as far as  to research back into Obama’s personal life as a young adult, unjustly claiming that his own experiences have literally clouded his better judgement for the country. 

If you take a look at passages from the 2010, 2011, and 2012 documents of the National Drug Control Strategy, one may find that there has been consistent emphasis on the opposition towards marijuana legislation. However, if you note the President’s public rhetoric between 2004 up till now, he has also remained steady with his attitude. Obama has always stated that he has been open to the medical use of the drug to relieve pain and suffering for various serious illnesses. Although on paper there has been resistance towards the idea of legalizing marijuana, Obama has always left ample leeway for discussion. His basis for doing so derives not from an economic standpoint or personal justification theory; instead the President espouses a practical view by advocating marijuana for the potential benefits to the medical field, as well as its impact on the present disparities in the U.S prosecution of drug laws.

“We should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the payday loans direct same thing”, Obama said. Additionally, he states: “Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do. And African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties.”

Finally, Obama again mentioned with regard to the two states experimenting with legalized marijuana, that “it’s important for it to go forward because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished.”

What is striking here is Obama’s ability to hit the issue’s very core. His statements have not been focused on the potential economic advantages that the legalization of the drug might pose, but rather on the partial gain towards existing societal inequalities and racial injustice.

His years at Harvard Law are distinctly notable here, as his theory is based upon realist and critical legal theories of law. The realist viewpoint analyzes the social context that laws arise in. Obama’s ability to open the lens around what is presently taking place in American society should be commended and encouraged. This also demonstrates the President’s value for accountability, and recognition that although the government includes these legal rules, we must sometimes reject the notion that we can predict the outcome of the law. I believe a democratic leader should have the capacity and leverage to critique any absence of the “rule of law”- the idea that there is neutrality, objectivity, and impartiality in the formal courtroom system.

Obama’s comments towards the legalization of marijuana provide an argument for contextualized legislation, by simply considering the notion that we should not be making laws in a vacuum. Instead, it is clear that we should be making informed decisions based upon the present societal context.

– Lara Gosselin

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About Lara Gosselin

Concordia University Undergraduate student, Majoring in Political Science with a double Minor in Law & Society and Marketing. Lara has lived in Montreal for the past seven years, although remains tied to her hometown of Toronto. Her interest in U.S. politics derives from her numerous travels across the country, and second home in the southern-state of Florida. Lara joined the Political Bouillon in hopes to contribute to the active and opinionated student atmosphere of the city.

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