Obama’s War On Weed Might Further Alienate Young Voters

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Obama Administration on WeedThough I agree in principle about what a huge waste of time and resources the war on drugs has been, I can’t say that I share MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell’s enthusiasm about the prospect of President Barack Obama embracing laxer drug laws in a hypothetical second administration. At least not based on recent behavior by his administration. Behavior that, if anything, leaves yet another sour note among a key-voting bloc essential to Obama’s hopes of a securing a second term.

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Last fall, Atty. Gen. Eric Holder announced that there would be a federal crackdown on the highly profitable medical marijuana industry in California. The sudden shift surprised advocates given the Obama administration took a relatively low-key approach early on. Earlier this month, though, they made their biggest move yet in this new war on weed as federal agents raided Oaksterdam University, a trade school based in Oakland. DEA and IRS agents reportedly took away computers, files, and marijuana plants, although they didn’t disclose a reason for the raid or charge the owner, Richard Lee, with any crime as of yet.

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Speaking with the Huffington Post, the owner of the country’s first cannabis industry trade school expressed his frustrations with the president, alleging:

Before he was elected, [President Barack Obama] promised to support medical marijuana and not waste federal resources on this. About a year and a half ago, the policy seemed to change. They’ve been attacking many states, threatening governors of states to prevent them from signing legislation to allow medical marijuana. They’ve been attacking on many fronts.

In a past interview, a then-Sen. Obama said his stance on medicinal marijuana usage was “practical.”

He explained:

“My attitude is if it’s an issue of doctors prescribing medical marijuana as a treatment for glaucoma or as a cancer treatment, I think that should be appropriate because there’s really no difference between that and a doctor prescribing morphine or anything else.”

Despite expressing concerns about people “setting up Mom and Pop shops” to distribute marijuana, he did declare, “What I’m not going to be doing is use Justice Department resources to circumvent state laws on this issue simply because I want folks to be instigating violent crimes and terrorism. We’ve got a lot of things for our law enforcement to deal with.”

Yet, the person who pledged to end these Bush-era raids on medical marijuana users – many of whom operate in line with state laws – has only enacted more.

It’s an interesting turn given support for marijuana legalization has only grown over the years, with 73 percent in favor of usage for medical purposes if prescribed by a doctor according to a Pew Research Poll.

In the investigative piece, “Obama’s War on Pot,” Rolling Stone political correspondent Tim Dickinson opines that the Administration’s retreat on their previous stance on weed stems on a reelection strategy of essentially out Republican-ing the Republicans. But as he notes in the piece, while that may help with senior voters in southern swing states like Virginia and North Carolina, where attitudes toward drug reform are more in line with tradition, it alienates young voters in places like Colorado.

Team Obama has enough trouble with young voters as is.

According to a new survey of youth voter attitudes released on Thursday by the Public Religion Research Institute and Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, less than half of 18-to-24-year-old voters want Obama to win re-election. Moreover, President Obama only leads a generic Republican candidate by just 7 percentage points — quite the shift from the 34-point margin he held over John McCain in 2008.

So while this shift might help him dredge up support among the older and southern, how far do you think an outpouring of stories about the feds wasting resources on defenseless crimes that aid people in illness will go in the way of closing the enthusiasm gap among the young people he still needs to win?

Michael Arceneaux is a Houston-bred, Howard-educated writer currently based in Los Angeles. You can read more of his work on his site, The Cynical Ones. Follow him on Twitter: @youngsinick

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