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Dec-30-2008 16:04printcomments

Marijuana Legalization: Retired Seattle Police Chief Says Obama Should Listen to Voters

We understand Mr. Obama has a full plate. Our economic crisis and the threat of terrorism are only two examples. However, we know that ending the drug war will offer a partial fix to both of these issues.

Barack Obama on NBC
Courtesy: NBC

(SEATTLE) - In early December, Barack Obama invited Americans to participate in an unprecedented, bottom-up approach to government. Visitors to the President-elect’s official website,, were able to submit questions and vote on which questions should take priority for the new administration.

More than a dozen of the top 50 questions called for amending America’s drug policies, with inquiries ranging from availability of doctor-recommended medical marijuana to the economic impact of continuing to arrest and incarcerate millions of people for drug offenses.

The number one vote getter was:

"Q: Will you consider legalizing marijuana so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?"

Americans got their answer, sort of. A one-sentence response from the President-elect’s transition team:

"A: President-elect Obama is not in favor of the legalization of marijuana."

Speaking as a 34-year cop with six years as police chief of one of America’s largest cities, I know how much money has been squandered in prosecuting the drug war. Obviously, I’m disappointed and confused by this response.

His silence on the issue can't be due to fear of political backlash. He and his team must have seen the recent Zogby poll that shows three of four Americans believe the "war on drugs" is a failure. And the Time/CNN poll showing only 19 percent of Americans think we should continue arresting and jailing marijuana users.

We understand Mr. Obama has a full plate. Our economic crisis and the threat of terrorism are only two examples. However, we know that ending the drug war will offer a partial fix to both of these issues.

A legal and regulated drug trade would imprison fewer people and generate substantial new revenues. A recently released Harvard study reports we could boost our economy by at least $76.8 billion a year by ending drug prohibition, and that’s a conservative estimate.

Legalizing and regulating drugs would help Mr. Obama achieve a greater state of security for Americans. It would effectively “take a bite out of” rampant domestic organized crime, which goes well beyond mere domestic street gangsters. And, given that our drug war enriches the coffers of organizations such as the Taliban and al Qaeda, it would dramatically reduce international crime and terrorism.

In Mexico, President Felipe Calderón’s increased police and military pressure on drug traffickers has not slowed the supply or the demand for drugs. In fact, the crackdown has only added to illegal drug markets and spiraling violence.

Despite this, Calderon has asked U.S. taxpayers for $1.4 billion to fund his country’s version of our failed policy. Amazingly, we’re handing it over.

At the request of President-elect Obama, Americans have initiated discussion about the immediate and far reaching implications of our disastrous drug policy. We respectfully ask Mr. Obama to explain his position to all the people who took the time to participate in this innovative, democratic process.

We need to know when this issue truly will be “open for questions.”

For more background, visit this article by Tim King: Marijuana Legalization Tops List of Questions for Obama in Online Poll

Norm Stamper, former Chief of Police of Seattle, is an advisory board member of He is the author of Breaking Rank: A Top Cop’s Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing. You can email Norm at Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) is an international nonprofit educational organization whose mission is to reduce the multitude of harmful consequences resulting from fighting the war on drugs and to lessen the incidence of death, disease, crime and addiction by ultimately ending drug prohibition. You can visit LEAP here,

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decriminalize it please February 4, 2009 10:38 am (Pacific time)

well being that our war on just about everything in the past 20 years has failed, i do think maybe we could possibly take a new approach, or maybe approach some of our conflicts from another angle. Ok we all have a while to live so i dont see why we cant try somethijng new?? I mean Mr. Obama might be getting critisism, but wtf? thats an every day issue. I mean wait until the "critisizers" open their eyes to the magnificent support that marijuana would be providing our economy with. Obviously if a retired police cheif is asking to legalize it because of all the money lost on failed attempts, well that should get your gears going just a little. There is just no point though, all we have done is lost. We have put billions of dollars right out in front of us to just blow away like dust. So yeah you've captured hundreds of thousands of drug offenders, but what did you get out of it? I think you probably lost a substantial amount of money to put someone behind bars... but the s#*t just carries on, infact looks to me that its getting worse.

Editor: I don't mean to be overzealous but even the "s" word can't be used in comments, and that is for kids. They get a big enough dose of real life just by being readers. Anway, let's keep it clean, thanks.

Dennis January 14, 2009 5:09 am (Pacific time)

Cannabis prohibitionists are the strap hangers on our society and they are fast becoming irrelevant. I saw it's time to shed the ways of the old society and evolve. It's going to happen anyway, why fight it?

andrew January 13, 2009 1:42 pm (Pacific time)

this is all good i think legalizing herb would be good and all but it wouldnt stop the illegeal part of it because if they wer to put age limits then people who rnt old enough will still want to smoke so it would probly jus reduce the crime a bit not to much though

mppDOTorg January 13, 2009 7:21 am (Pacific time)

anon1, I couldn't have put it better myself.

anon1 January 11, 2009 2:09 pm (Pacific time)

War in Vietnam:FAIL War on drugs:FAIL War on terrorism:FAIL War in Iraq:FAIL After so many epic fails... wouldn't you think America would find a new hobby and source of income?

Steve January 11, 2009 10:51 am (Pacific time)

If marijuana is legalized where would all the drug enforcement agents get their free pot and who would they get to pick on and bully if they can't harass negroes and skinny white kids. Most are worthless control freaks who get high on thinking they are superior to the rest of us. Give them all more paperwork to do or better yet send them all to a war zone ASAP.

Ferahtsu January 10, 2009 11:56 pm (Pacific time)

Keep in mind that the short answer is NOT a direct quote from our President elect.

jack January 10, 2009 2:45 am (Pacific time)

the only problem with weed is the cops........and please JOHN "Great, this is just what we need. The government forcing every man woman and child to use marijuana everyday. What will become of this once great nation" that has to be the most ridiculous statement ever as if the people have a gun to there head and are forced to smoke.....once great nation??? maybe in the movies.............

Brinna January 8, 2009 12:32 pm (Pacific time)

Thanks for posting this article. By the way, the second round of "open for questions' is going on at the Obama Website. At the moment there is still a cannabis question in the top 10. We can bring it back up to the top. Once you get to the site, put in a search for marijuana, (cannabis, hemp) and vote them up. This link: will take you there, or just go to, open for questions.

Frankie D January 6, 2009 6:41 pm (Pacific time)

And we think the war in Vietnam was a fiasco, we have been fighting this ridiculous drug war for over 40 years and have not won a battle yet, unless you want to count all the lives of kids we have ruined because they experimented with drugs and were thrown in jail. Take a look around at the hypocrisy of the BIG pharmaceutical companies that sell us some drugs that the tell you on TV that that more side affects than you ever want hear of. Lets see prohibition did not work and made organized crime rich beyond their dreams, so lets be fair and let all the worlds lowlifes piss on America and become super rich while the working man in our own country have a problem putting food on the table and putting their kids through college. So lets keep making the corporations and the lowlifes wealthy and the middle man gets screwed again. Now I'm going to roll a fatty and relax in my house and watch some boob tube

CJ January 6, 2009 4:43 pm (Pacific time)

marijuana will not be legalized. the government makes too much money criminalizing people for it. the medical marijuana alternative makes the government money too, so the government probably sees no point in making it legal to everyone when they can just take money from non-prescribed people. Obama has already done enough to the conservatives with the taxes... I doubt he wants to add legalizing marijuana to the list if you know what i mean.

productive pothead January 6, 2009 2:40 pm (Pacific time)

The reason the short reply from Obama is clear. There are 'forces' influencing his decision that outweigh voters and common sense. That would be the tobacco and alcohol lobbies. Those industries would take a hit from legalized dope, and they can't let that happen. Hooray for a corrupt lobby system.

BG January 6, 2009 9:30 am (Pacific time)

I am a canadian, and i think the American laws against marijuana are ridiculous!

blah January 6, 2009 9:19 am (Pacific time)

no dont make it legal!!! we in canada make so much money of america paying ridiculously high prices because its illegal for it! it would ruin our country!

kalan January 6, 2009 8:48 am (Pacific time)

this issue will be brought up and brought up, but will never pass. we as americans wont allow it, but yet a few percentage want it to happen. why it wont happen, the population has become weak in their efforts. we could stop this country from pushing the under-class citizens into poverty by boycotting many major companies and thier products and or services. soon they would realize that if we aint making money then you wont neither. thier too greedy to allow that to happen the result.... change in wages. they have to take a cut of millions just to keep thier income coming. marijuana is an issue but there's just too much for the government to lose- war. without that absolute power and control over it's people they feel useless. but if you ask them about the war on drugs they never mention all of the drugs advertised on the tv that prolly 101% of the poplutaion need to be taking, so it's like this- we can do drugs that they tell you real quick can KILL US, but you cant use HERBAL REMEDIES its just to safe, no one will die from doing it, it can profit the nation as a whole, and they would have to admit they was wrong. and the PLANT has many many many other applications that could slow our dependency on foriegn oils, slow the cutting of rain forests, fertilize soil, remove alot of synthetic products that aint biodegradable from the market. there's just too much that this "criminal plant" could do for us. and most of what we know that we can make from this plant is from reports over 40 years old. if research was to be done more one the plant we could be more effiecnt in harvest and manufacturing of goods. does all this sound good? NO it doesnt, remember what helped cannibis become an outlaw in this country??? of course not, it created raging animals out of people who on this HERB were rapists, murderers, and canibals. unfounded because no reports of these things could be confirmed, but what can be confirmed is this.... during alcohol prohibition murder rates almost doubled and then dropped 37% the same year it was legal again. in the later of the century the war on drugs (mostly marijuana) the rates started spiking again, wow right? strange pattern when you look at the chart. but whats really the problem with marijuana? well it's more profitable for the government illegal, think it gives cops, DA's, judges, public PRETENDERS, prisons, prison guards,and the DEA all monies. think about it this way though there have been more victims of marijuana laws yesterday then there will EVER be from the plant itself. and if we cant punish people for things that dont bother anyone, then we will have to put focus else'S failed policies, the real reason that guy was shot in the face by cheney.... well thats pretty much the targets left GOVERNMENT CRIMINALS

DantheMan January 5, 2009 8:24 pm (Pacific time)

Obama is the first president to openly admit the he "inhaled" and for that he has my respect. For those of us who would like to see a change in America's drug laws regarding Marijuana, he is our best hope. It's gonna be up to people like us to sign the petitions and get involve at every level of government to push for this important issue. Since Obama promises change, I say we hold him to that by making sure our voices are heard and the facts are considered rationally. That would be real change.

Vic January 5, 2009 7:50 am (Pacific time)

I guess you could call me a pothead, but I have never been on welfare, and have provided jobs to other people for the last 20 years. We have probably given more to charity and been more involved in our community and schools than many of you white trash drunks out there with your superiority complexes. (I am white too, btw) I also know productive alcoholics and I know potheads that arent worth a damn. You cant generalize people.

Clint January 4, 2009 9:12 pm (Pacific time)

Well, Obama defiantly does have a full plate as you mention, and there are some pretty big fish to fry concerning the direction of this country of ours. Honestly I just can't imagine Obama going head first into this issue with out going up in flames. I mean the republican firing squad is just praying for the chance to unleash a media propaganda shit storm that undoubtedly follow action on this issue by Obama. If anything is going to be or can be done now we, as the people, have to stand together better. Obama's election is a great victory on many levels, but unfortunatly, he has to play it safe and be relatively centrist, because if he doesn't, if he gives one "Monica" incident to the republicans we'll have to start all over again.

DRGO January 4, 2009 6:20 pm (Pacific time)

"What about all the drunken, gun owning redneck people collecting welfare?"

I own guns, pro-legalization, pro choice and all that good s#*t. So I don't exactly fit into any single group or party. Why do you raise your chin at someone who disagrees with your views in a bigoted and short sighted way when you turn around and do it to someone else?

Editor: DRGO, don't use that language here.  I just failed to see what race has to do with this,  

Marcus January 4, 2009 6:19 pm (Pacific time)

"quote" Dan December 31, 2008 4:51 am (Pacific time) While I agree that drugs of all form should be legalized I just don't see it happening. While estimates show that legalization would bring new revenue in the form of taxes, it doesn't show revenue lost in the business of crime prevention and prison building. That's big business in this country. the DEA would have to cut employees, government employees no less. We all know that as long as there is money to be made by making drugs illegal it doesn't matter if there is money to be made by making them legal. The politicians aren't going to slaughter a cash cow while they're still milking it. "quote" O, No. God forbid our government have a smaller police force breathing down our necks and less prisons to fill up. Last i checked there is federal and privatized prisons. The government puts loads of money into their prisons which is why they allow privatization, because its expensive. Big corporations own privatized prisons and lend out their "SLAVE" labor force for work and take half of their pay check every week for things such as a lunch whether they want to eat the jails lunch or not and things like prison provided rides to and from work whether their job picks them up or not. Now lets think about this logically instead of stupidly. Less prisons-Less prison workers-less law enforcement (wont be needed because how dangerous is marijuana when nicotene is more addictive than meth and heroin)-less corporations=more money distributed into the now failing middle class and away from the top 7% who own, correct me if im wrong because i do not remember the exact figure, 91% of the money in the US. If we do not push the subject our corrupt politicians will let it falter out yet again. Legalize it, tax it, and post that question again whenever they open up the question board back up so we can all bump it to number 1.

dan January 4, 2009 5:34 pm (Pacific time)

Though it won't happen I don't see how anyone of marginal intelligence can actually believe it's a good idea to prohibit marijuana. Eienstein once defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. That is effectively our war on drugs. If legal there could be regulation, taxation and we could finally tax the vast illegal drug profits away from the gangsters and terrorists. It's sad what our country has become. "Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded." Abraham Lincoln (1809-65), U.S. President. Speech, 18 Dec. 1840, to Illinois House of Representatives

tony hawk January 4, 2009 4:29 pm (Pacific time)

cant fight against the youth!

raj January 4, 2009 1:44 pm (Pacific time)

not surprised. whatsoever. obama didn't pay for his campaign with his last five bucks or anything like that. the constituents aren't going to convince him because there are more important people to please. der. he's just a politician, nothing more.

Stuart January 4, 2009 12:48 pm (Pacific time)

Has no-one taken into account that most of the hashish produced in the world is produced and distributed by the taliban? it would be an amazing way to kick them in the nuts financially if it became legal.

Bill January 4, 2009 9:39 am (Pacific time)

What can you expect? Open your eyes our politions are criminals,Look at Illinois Govenor Rod.......

Antinomian January 4, 2009 7:30 am (Pacific time)

Editor: You are welcome to submit this piece as a guest opinion and there is a possibility that we would publish it, but we can't have comments of this length.  I did save it and you can write to me if you want to see what we can do about publishing it:

Tim King

Harumph January 1, 2009 4:37 pm (Pacific time)

Just what we need when the economy turns down... Lots more potheads collecting welfare and jamming up the economy...

Of course, the same idiots advocating this think that Washington DC can "fix" the ecomomy...

Editor: What about all the drunken, gun owning redneck people collecting welfare?  Are they as much of a problem?  Obviously you look so far down your nose at other human beings, that if a fact hit you square on the head you probably wouldn't know it.  I would just suggest that you remember your narrow little view of the world and "potheads" is one born of extremely little real knowledge or experience.  Glad you have name calling to resort to, you certainly need something.

John Thomas January 1, 2009 2:47 am (Pacific time)

This is an excellent article by Noam Stamper. Marijuana prohibition is an important issue, but power has been stifling the needed discussion. We arrest more than 800,000 innocent Americans every year for marijuana possession. This brands them with a "criminal" record for life - effectively making them second-class citizens. - With 20 million now carrying the Scarlet letter, we will soon begin reaping the consequences of having a large underclass. We can prevent such astronomical suffering by simply doing the right thing. We must end the prohibition of a plant that is non-addictive and far less harmful than alcohol. To do otherwise will likely spell the deathknell of America's principles - and consequently, its civilization.

BS43 December 31, 2008 4:57 pm (Pacific time)

Everyone who denies the the reformation of drug laws is brainwashed and has an opinion but no merit. I can't believe that you actually think they care about you just because you come on here and downplay marijuana. They got you hook line and sinker. It would be different if it was your family or friends getting locked away. You've obviously not been on the bottom looking up. You must think that things are so great here. Get your head out of the sand. You don't speak for the silent majority and not even for people who's minds have been corrupted by govt. influence, cause even they can understand. I'm not saying that the govt. is completely bad or wrong cause that's not it. It is safe to say that they do things, illegal, and we just sit back and let them do it cause what are we gonna do. How do you fight your govt.? Can't do it by force you would never win.It's gonna have to be accomplished with facts and the facts don't lie, people lie! So is that why we are all so afraid cause of what is at stake? To tell you the truth they force my hand even though they see it otherwise. Don't post brainwashed propaganda. If you don't know how it effects you then please, don't post. We know their are some who don't like marijuana and would never try it. Not everyone is like you and even though you may think you are perfect you are far from it. Argue with facts, yeah you have no point. You just say it cause the govt. tells you to. Get out of your shell and quit thinking its all good cause its not. You live in a dream world and just because you blow it off like everyone else, doesn't mean its not there. Object permanence. So is the govt. gonna throw everyone who has a different opinion in jail? Or can we come to an agreement that all of the smoke and mirrors pertaining to marijuana have been unjust. I'm just tired of being lied to, about this an about everything else. Maybe it's time we started showing them who we are and that we're not a bunch of stupid "potheads." I know alot of really intelligent people who do it and I know some who don't but they don't think its right to ruin a person's life over an asset that should be legal, Just like that beer or wine or those cigarettes you like to smoke. What about those prescribed meds. You can't argue with facts.

pico December 31, 2008 7:41 am (Pacific time)

we can not legalize drugs,do want omore than 1 milliion people out of jobs ,prison guards ,dea agents,prosecutors ,local narcotics agents,I think this is the best use of taxpayers money and it should go on forever. the government should raise everyones taxes by 10% so that we can continue this successful drug war.

john December 31, 2008 7:32 am (Pacific time)

Great, this is just what we need. The government forcing every man woman and child to use marijuana everyday. What will become of this once great nation

Dan December 31, 2008 4:51 am (Pacific time)

While I agree that drugs of all form should be legalized I just don't see it happening. While estimates show that legalization would bring new revenue in the form of taxes, it doesn't show revenue lost in the business of crime prevention and prison building. That's big business in this country. the DEA would have to cut employees, government employees no less. We all know that as long as there is money to be made by making drugs illegal it doesn't matter if there is money to be made by making them legal. The politicians aren't going to slaughter a cash cow while they're still milking it.

Rod J December 31, 2008 4:04 am (Pacific time)

Dear President Obama, we have spent enough of our precious time and resources to outlaw marijuana. It,s time to legalize. Rod

Brian December 31, 2008 2:17 am (Pacific time)

This is too bad...the reason cannabis became illegal in the first place was due to racist implications. I can't believe politicians are blind to this fact, not to mention that its straight hypocrisy not to legalize a smokeable substance when tobacco is already legal. Tobacco and alcohol are the real problem anyway...combined they kill just under 400000 a year. Why doesn't the united states govt accept these facts and let the Americans that do smoke cannabis do so without persecution or penalty? They're obviously not harming anyone but themselves, and they just want to enjoy the euphoria or numb their aches and pains....something that is less harmful than synthetic heroin aka oxycontin, which is legal by prescription. Cannabis is natural, has less toxins than cigarettes, you can't overdose on it like you can with alcohol, and it doesn't have the downfalls of painkillers like OC does, which is extremely addictive, VERY bad on the liver, and causes terrible weight loss. This is a plant that has been around for thousands of years. If god is real he certainly didn't want one of his creations such as cannabis to become illegal. Don't we as individuals have a right what we put in our bodies? I thought we lived in America land of the free...but day after day I am starting to think less and less of our country. We have thrown some people in guantanamo without any proof, kept them there, and then when we realized we were wrong we have them no compensation. We've also done this with the Japanese as well. And also, were gonna start having tracking devices in our drivers licenses? And we are having our phones tapped? Seriously, America has gone to hell in a handbasket. I am ashamed to live here. This country is a disgrace. Our economy is so messed up too and legalization could help quite a bit with it but our leaders never listen...instead we seem to be more keen on worsening the situation by incarcerating millions of our own for non violent drug offenses, bailing out corporation after corporation (even though a bankrupt corporation means the public doesn't want them anymore) and by destroying social security for todays young generation, such as myself. I'm pissed. We can never get any change around here. I feel like I wasted my vote in November.

David December 30, 2008 11:04 pm (Pacific time)

I can't believe it gave such a short reply to his #1 question. He needs to remember who his voters were.

Sanchez December 30, 2008 9:41 pm (Pacific time)

Not going to happen in Obama's administration or anytime in the next 100 plus years. There are no doubt many people and organizations pushing for legalization, but until you get even ten senators to push for it's legalization, you will then realize that even then there is still too huge of a gap to overcome. This is a political hot potato, and in the final analysis it's a loser for congress to push for it. Even if you get 100 million on board that would still only be approx. one third of the population.

curtis December 30, 2008 9:10 pm (Pacific time)

I do not advocate using Maryjane but , I feel the same about tobacco. but the war has lost, time to free up prisons and use the money in schools and real police protection. I know but open up your mind,think,read then make up your own mind. Tax as we do tobacco, But not too high as it's better to keep the money at home, not spend it on hard drugs.
Remember think,read and then make up your own mind.

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