Part II: Kerry and Marijuana Policy

Discussion in 'Legalization and Activism' started by Superjoint, Mar 1, 2004.

  1. By Al Giordano
    Source: Big Left Outside

    This is Part II in my ongoing memo, John Kerry and Drug Policy 101, attempting to get past the superficial treatment that the Commercial Media and some activist groups (especially those of the "beautiful loser" category who fear they'll be out of business when we finally win) alike offer when it comes to the nexus of electoral politics and drug policy.
    Part I - Kerry and Medical Marijuana - discussed the position of the likely Democratic Party presidential nominee regarding medical marijuana, compared to those of his rivals.

    That's an easy one, or should be, for most pols, given the back to back victories in every state and entity where medical use of the herb has ever faced a referendum vote.

    But the larger question - how the law will treat every other marijuana user who doesn't have a doctor's note - has, historically, been avoided by politicians: especially those who have a chance of becoming president of the United States.

    Dennis Kucinich and Ralph Nader have very enlightened positions, and I cheer them for it. But I'm mainly interested in how someone who has a real shot of occupying the Oval Office stands on the matter.

    First, let's look at what one organization that monitors the candidates says. Norml - the National Organization for Reform of the Marijuana Laws - maintains a Report Card for each of the candidates, online.

    Here's what it says, specifically, about Kerry:

    US Senator John Kerry (D-MA) is on record voicing mild support for decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana for personal use… However, when asked whether he supported decriminalizing the possession and use of marijuana as a public policy, he replied: "No, not quite…"

    Norml is referring to a recent Rolling Stone interview with Kerry. Here's the full relevant passage, here….

    RS: You have talked in the past of smoking pot when you returned from Vietnam. What do you think of the way the pot laws are prosecuted today?

    JK: We have never had a legitimate War on Drugs in the United States, ever, and we won't until we have treatment on demand for addiction and until you have full drug education in our schools. The mandatory-minimum-sentencing structure of our country is funneling people into jail who have no business being there.

    RS: And every year, the number of people arrested for marijuana offenses goes up.

    JK: I've met plenty of people in my lifetime who've used marijuana and who I would not qualify as serious addicts -- who use about the same amount as some people drink beer or wine or have a cocktail. I don't get too excited by any of that.

    RS: Would you favor decriminalization?

    JK: No, not quite. What we did in the prosecutor's office was have a sort of unspoken approach to marijuana that was almost effectively decriminalization. We just didn't bother with small-time use. It doesn't rise to the level of nuisance, even. And what we were after was people dealing with heroin and destroying lives, and people who were killing people. That's where you need to focus.

    So, kind readers: Is the glass half empty or half full?

    Well, that depends on whether the glass has had anything but hot air inside it for decades... which it hasn't.

    A major league candidate for president, with a real chance at the White House, is openly suggesting - and he needs to be pushed to be more specific on this point - that a good policy would "not bother with small-time use." In other words, he likes a de facto decriminalization that would not even need to wait for Congress to drag its collective rear end to vote on it: By simple executive order to US attorneys, stating the prosecutorial priorities, and to the DEA, stating the enforcement priorities, of the executive branch, this could conceivably be accomplished.

    Marijuana reform organizations need an attitude adjustment from what has historically been an "all or nothing" approach. What is wrong with some activists that they can't get excited when, for the first time in a generation, a candidate who might well become president says it's not a priority for him to prosecute marijuana smokers? Not only that, but he says aloud that marijuana smokers are akin to people who "drink beer or wine or have a cocktail."

    Rolling Stone reporter Will Dana, who conducted the interview, later said on CNN:

    DANA: Yes, well I mean this guy (Howard Dean), I mean he might be exciting that sort of Nader fringe of the party, but he is not Ralph Nader by any stretch of the imagination. I mean you should see -- we asked him about his possessions on marijuana.

    O'BRIEN: What was that like? What did he say there?

    DANA: He takes a hard line. You know he doesn't want to budge from what the laws are now. Whereas John Kerry told us, you know, that he doesn't think marijuana's that big a deal…

    Now, what's the real story? Are some marijuana reform activists or hemp protagonists gonna miss being demonized and persecuted so much that they can't get excited about that? Or have they grown addicted not to a non-addictive plant, but, rather, to what they fantasize is their "cool" outlaw status so much that, deep down inside, they don't want the big change to come?

    Many obviously would rather end a lifetime of persecution and toke from a pipe that is half full. But I have my doubts about some of them.

    In the days leading up to January's Iowa Caucus, another incident demonstrated Kerry's lack of uptightness on the matter of marijuana and its users. Some political reporters called it "The Puff Incident."

    Ed O'Keefe of ABC news said this about it…

    On Saturday, Kerry kicked off a 4-day Iowa swing which is fast becoming the Peter, John & Caucus tour as folk music legend Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul & Mary travels with the Senator as his activist event opening act…

    This vote-seeking, folk-singing tour took an unusual turn Saturday night as Kerry and Yarrow dropped by a party held by the Story County Democrats in Ames, IA.

    Moments after the Senator's arrival, none other than Howard Dean walked in the door, prompting one partygoer to debate, Should I talk to Dean in the kitchen or Kerry in the living room?

    The Governor strummed a tune with Yarrow then quickly exited stage porch. Kerry listened from the kitchen and cringed as his friend called him forth to the center stage den for a group rendition of Puff the Magic Dragon.

    As the folk star began his signature song with an unintended double meaning, Kerry mouthed a few words then took his index finger to his thumb, pursed his lips, and feigned a marijuana toke.

    Even the rightwing Fox News, backed by the observations of a political consultant and a Washington Post reporter commenting on The Puff Incident, shrugged its shoulders at something that, not too long ago, would have caused a sensationalist media scandal…

    The song, while seemingly a children's tune, is better known among the '60s set as a tribute to the leafy drug. Making an apparent reference to the true meaning of the song, Kerry, in front of cameras, raised his fingers to his mouth as if toking on an imaginary marijuana cigarette.

    The motion drew loud laughs from guests at the house party, but barely a murmur from analysts, who say the former use of marijuana by the presidential candidates is barely as scandalous as in the days of Clinton's candidacy.

    "This generation makes jokes about smoking marijuana. They make jokes about being stoned. How many times in a conversation have you said to somebody 'Is he stoned'? So, I think it's just something that is of the times, I don't think it means anything," said Democratic strategist Ellen Kamarck.

    "This was a light moment, this was not any sort of serious campaign business," said Washington Post reporter Ceci Connelly, a Fox News contributor who was one of the media mavens at the house party.

    Asked about critics' complaints that regardless of whether Kerry -- a Massachusetts senator and Vietnam veteran -- smoked marijuana, the gesture doesn't look presidential and makes him lose respect on the world stage, Connelly said she hadn't heard any complaints.

    "There are such bigger issues that the campaigns are fighting about right now. I have not heard that comment from anyone in Iowa. I just don't see it as being an issue to voters out here," she said.

    In fact, Connelly said Kerry's motion is just one example of assertions from within and outside his campaign that he is starting to enjoy the race.

    So, kind readers, you decide…

    Have we arrived?

    Are we, at least, at the gates of arrival?

    Would you like to swing on a star?

    Or would you rather be... arrested?

    Well, if you would rather remain an outlaw for life (and can't think of better reasons than pot smoking to make yourself one), you can still be "pure" and vote for Nader in November. There are many issue concerns that obviously make Nader attractive. And, as this memo will demonstrate in future chapters, various drug war issues in which Kerry needs a lot of work.

    But if your top issue is that you don't want to be persecuted for smoking a joint, and you're not excited about the possibility of having a guy in the White House who doesn't hate you and want to lock you up for doing so... dude, Darwin's gonna get you first.

    Note: "I've met plenty of people in my lifetime who've used marijuana and who I would not qualify as serious addicts -- who use about the same amount as some people drink beer or wine or have a cocktail. I don't get too excited by any of that."

    John Kerry - December 2003: Rolling Stone Interview -- http://www.rollingstone.com/features/nationalaffairs/featuregen.asp?pid=2454

    Source: Big Left Outside
    Author: Al Giordano
    Published: February 27, 2004
    Copyright: 2004 Al Giordano
    Contact: al@bigleftoutside.com
    Website: http://www.bigleftoutside.com/

    Related Articles & Web Site:

    NORML
    http://www.norml.org/
     
  2. I'm voting for Kerry. Out of everyone who has a chance at winning he has the best stand on Marijuana.

    Fuck this outlaw image shit. I'd love to be able to sit on my front porch in day light and toke on a bong.
     
  3. Well, the issue is; he hasn't put it on paper or signed a bill.
    If he actually maintains his stance and doesn't just ignore the issue, then the US will finally have legal cannabis.
    But if he said it to rolling stone, he might just do that...or he might not...

    Who knows?
     
  4. when asked by .................Rolling Stone..............:)


    funny how politicians always give the answer most likely to be well received by the questioner ,particularly while running for office.

    Does anyone care what NORML is monitoring ? Seems to me they have done little to nothing in furthering the cause.


    In fact I really wish people who would like to see marijuana legalized or decriminalized ,find some other group to support .
    Perhaps a group that actually does something besides talk.


    Norml has become more of a distraction than anything.


    Following their lead will accomplish nothing.
     
  5. Im voting for kerry...the rest of the canidates seem much more strict on marijuana laws...lets hope he gets osmething done while in office..
     
  6. Don't kid yourselves...Kerry ain't gonna stand up for MJ rights...he's a notorious waffler on many issues and he will not take any stand on this one. The way to push for legalization is going to be through state laws. I believe we'll need to see over 25 states w/pro-MJ laws before Congress will consider any Federal legislation.
     
  7. Yeah... he does have the most relaxed stance but it probably doesn't really even matter. Being a politician is all about pissing off the least number of people possible, and I think that it's very possible that that's the only thing he's doing. Sliding around on the issues so that his stance could be interpreted several different ways. Yeah, sure he says he doesn't think marijuana's that big of a deal, but he also says he won't decriminalize it. But you never know, there's always hope. That being said... he's definitely beginning to sound like the best voting option. I'm voting for him.
     
  8. yeah i'm 60% sure i'm voting for kerry
     
  9. I've said it before...but it must be said again:


    It makes very little difference what president we have in the context of legalization...

    To win this battle, people must work from the bottom up...

    Petition to congressmen, senators, governors: get the issue tossed out in the open.

    Sure, a president might go against it once it came into his office, but if we rallied enough support for our cause: it would definitely put him on the spot having to make a crucial decision. If the congressmen, senators, and governors took a more aggressive stance on it, and brought up key points in their arguments as a result of increased support...

    There's a good chance that president might just let it be legalized, especially at the scrutiny of his administration, nation, and lawmakers.

    It has to start from the bottom up.

    The more support you have from the lawmakers; the higher a legalization bills success chance becomes.
     

  10. underto take... but i think you go too far.
    perhaps better would be to find a way to improve NORML... we all know they could use alot of improvement, especially being perhaps the best reccognised activist group.
     

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