Remember in 2008 when President-Elect Obama was “Open for Questions” – an online request for policy suggestions from the American public? Remember when the #1 request (and 31 of the top 100) asked about legalization of marijuana? Mr. Obama’s team replied with a curt “President-elect Obama is not in favor of the legalization of marijuana.”
Later at the beginning of 2009, Obama’s Administration opened up a “second round” of online policy requests and again, marijuana law reform placed in the top five, even with YouTube filtering out some of the “previously answered questions”. This second time the question was completely ignored.
Next in 2009, the administration re-opened “Open for Questions” and for the third time, marijuana legalization was the number one request, framed as a way to help save our economy. President Obama laughed at the request.
In the middle of 2009, the project was titled “Citizens’ Briefing Book” and the #1 request, outpacing #2 with almost a third more votes, was legalization of marijuana. This fourth time the question was ignored and its popularity not even mentioned in the final report.
In 2010 the online requests were rebranded as “Ideas for Change” and, once again, for the fifth time, legalizing marijuana was the #1 question. This was submitted to the administration and was never commented on.
At the beginning of this year the forum was hosted by YouTube and called “Ask Obama” and not only was the top question about legalization of marijuana (asked by LEAP’s Mackenzie Allen), but the entire TOP 100 QUESTIONS had to do with legalization of marijuana or ending the drug war in general. This sixth time, President Obama finally replied to the question without laughing, saying that legalization was ” a legitimate topic for debate”.
So this seventh time, the forum had moved to Twitter, using the hashtag (think: “subject”) #AskObama. At NORML, we tweeted ”Would you consider legalizing marijuana to increase revenue and save tax dollars by freeing up crowded prisons, courtrooms?” and it was re-tweeted (think: “seconded”) 4,911 times. The second-most re-tweeted question only got 1,800 re-tweets and marijuana legalization in general made up 1-in-8 questions of the subjects asked.
Naturally, Twitter didn’t bother to ask President Obama any questions about legalizing marijuana. Roll Call reported “The whims of the stoner masses won’t take over as they have before — this time, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey will be moderating questions according to which he thinks are the most relevant.”
San Francisco Weekly picked up on the story and asked Twitter about the failure to ask the question:
It’s not quite so simple as that, Twitter spokeswoman Jodi Olson says. “Narrowing down 160,000-plus Tweets into just 17 questions is no easy task,” Olson wrote in an e-mail.
Retweets were just one indicator of an #AskObama question’s popularity. Mass Revelance, a social curation firm, sorted the horde of 140-character inquiries to find out which created the most buzz. Then a select group of Twitter users (called “curators”) further culled the list and found that the most popular questions “were jobs (23 percent); the budget (18 percent); taxes (18 percent); and education (11 percent), and you’ll note that the questions asked roughly corresponded to this,” Olson wrote.
I would not be surprised if the Obama Administration only agreed to the Twitter Town Hall on the condition that a marijuana legalization question not be asked, but I have no proof of this conjecture.
Regardless, the government and their media enablers are responding and have responded in the past that marijuana legalization is only popular online because of “trolls” who smoke weed and dominate online forums. Even the allegedly liberal New York Times says it’s a “fringe issue” and the bohemian Village Voice has mocked the popularity of ending the war on marijuana as an issue.
It certainly couldn’t be that more than half of people under age 50 have tried marijuana or that there are 25 million of us adults who are consuming it this year. It couldn’t be that just under one-third of the United States has legal medical marijuana and over one-fourth have decriminalized personal marijuana. It couldn’t be that nationwide 46% of the people support legalization and among those under 35, Westerners, and liberals, it is a majority that supports legalization. It couldn’t be that people are listening to every government policy study since 1894 that has recommended marijuana decriminalization or legalization. It couldn’t be that people have realized that 850,000 arrests for marijuana are unnecessary and imprisoning people for home gardening is simply immoral and unjust.
Nope. When taxes, budget, and jobs top the Twitter ranks, it is because Twitter has its finger on the pulse of American political concerns. But if it is marijuana legalization, it is only because a small fringe stoner element is disproportionately represented online. Considering the standard set by the drug war for ignoring the simplest explanations, defying the most basic logic, and burying contradictory science, Twitter’s silencing of the legalization scream is really no surprise.