Insult? I don't think Obama meant to insult anyone. I think that was a well-executed political straddle -- Obama winked at the pro-legalization crowd, even as he ran from the policy it so craves.
Mirken told me, "I can't help but feel that (Obama) really knows better, but just doesn't think he can go there politically now." That's the sign of a successful straddle: when the people whom you officially oppose believe you secretly sympathize with them.
In February, pollster Scott Rasmussen reported that 40 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana, 46 percent oppose, while 14 percent are not sure. Voters under 40 are more supportive of legalizing marijuana than older folk.
With such findings, you might expect that 4 in 10 Washington politicians support legalizing marijuana. But only a minority of politicians dares support something as modest as the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment to stop federal raids on medical marijuana clinics. In 2007, the House defeated the measure by a 262-165 vote in its fifth incarnation. In 2008, however, Hinchey-Rohrabacher never even made it to a House vote.
Too toxic for a presidential election year. Mirken and I agree on this: Any change in America's marijuana laws will percolate from the bottom up. Said Mirken: "This is one of those issues that when it changes, it's going to be all of a sudden, like the fall of the Soviet empire. I think we're getting close to that point, and I think that politicians will be the last to see it coming."
Or maybe the change will never come. Maybe Americans want politicians who back expensive, ineffective marijuana laws -- even if the politicians ignored those laws when they were young.
Maybe some voters are willing to support laws that they believe will turn someone else's kids into criminals if it means that their kids will be less likely to stray -- even if tough laws don't really dampen drug usage. Maybe anyone can grow up to be president -- whether he inhaled or not -- just as long as he campaigns on the promise to just say no.