For the ninth time, the Obama Administration uses internet technology to solicit questions from the people on public policy.
Once again, marijuana legalization dominates the process.
On the “We the People” petitions site of Whitehouse.gov, as of this writing, NORML’s “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol” petition is #1 by a long shot. It has garnered over 42,000 signatures. It needed 5,000 signatures in 30 days to generate an official response from the administration, a figure it had topped in just over three hours.
The next most popular petition to “Abolish the TSA” has just over 23,ooo signatures. The third petition, “Forgive Student Loan Debt” has 22,000 signatures. The fourth, “The Case of Sholom Rubashkin”, has 21,000.
Marijuana law reform once again dominates the top ten issues as well. Number six is “Allow Industrial Hemp” with 13,000; “Legalize, Regulate, and Tax Marijuana” is seventh with 12,000; “Stop Interfering with State Marijuana Legalization Efforts” is ninth with 11,000, and “End the War on Drugs” is tenth with 11,000.
As President Obama began his term, he promised to be “Open for Questions”. Under “Change.gov”, in December 2008, even before inauguration, Obama used the power of online networks to solicit input from the public to shape his public policy. Consistently, marijuana law reform has dominated the discussions and we’ve been reporting it:
- Change.gov (Dec 2008) – “The #1 question, 2 of the top ten, 6 of the top twenty, and a dozen of the top fifty all have to do with marijuana and drug law reform.”
- Open for Questions (Jan 2009) - “in the “National Security” category, after 284,445 votes on 4,449 questions from 20,121 people, we find this [ending the drug war] question in the #1 slot”
- Citizen’s Briefing Book (Jan 2009) - “Guess which policy idea is #1 again, with “44,950 points””
Open for Questions II (Mar 2009) - “Obama addressed the pot issue head on, noting the huge number of questions about marijuana legalization and remarking with a chuckle, “I don’t know what that says about the online audience.””
- Citizens’ Briefing Book (May 2009) – “the No. 1 idea listed would have been the call to legalize marijuana (buried on p. 26 of the report).”
- Ideas for Change (Mar 2010) – “I’m not surprised that our idea won yet again in nationwide voting on important issues.”
- YouTube Ask Obama Forum (Jan 2011) – “Just like it has been every single time the Obama Administration has asked the people to submit their concerns online, marijuana legalization is dominating the forum”
- Twitter #AskObama Forum (Jul 2011) – “marijuana legalization in general made up 1-in-8 questions of the subjects asked.”
The traditional media does their best to dismiss these clear expressions of public sentiment. The New York Times called our concerns “a fringe issue” like “UFOs or the Kennedy assassination”. FOX News proclaimed Obama’s efforts at transparency “stymied by internet trolls”, echoing Wired Magazine’s appraisal that asking Obama to legalize was “the idiocy of trolls”. Even the allegedly liberal Village Voice (creator of TokeOfTheTown.com) mocked the efforts of “YouTube Stoners”.
However, with recent polls showing majority support for marijuana legalization - especially among younger voters - and now a ninth online campaign dominated by drug reform issues, it becomes more difficult for all but the most obstinate to ignore the big green elephant in the room. With a struggling economy and young adult unemployment at rates not seen since World War II, Mr. Obama ignores or laughs off this question at his electoral peril. He needs all the young votes he can get.