Cannabis contention and the election

Medical marijuana is available legally in California, but not in the United States.  Last year, President Obama’s Justice Department followed US law, raiding Oaksterdam University (“America’s first and premier cannabis college”), which promises high quality training for those involved in cultivating and selling medical marijuana.

When President Obama visited Northern California yesterday on a fundraising trip, advocates of medical marijuana marched in front of Oakland’s City Hall, demanding that Obama pay attention to their demands.

Carly Schwartz reports at the Huffington Post:

“We are here today to send a message so loud that not even the president will be able to ignore it,” Steve D’Angelo, director of Oakland’s Harborside Health Care, which calls itself the “nation’s largest dispensary,” told the crowd as it erupted into cheers.

I’m not so coarse as to speculate on what Mr. D’Angelo might be smoking, but I’m pretty sure he’s wrong.  President Obama has no interest in allowing any space between himself and Mitt Romney on marijuana, and cannabis activists will have a hard time getting much attention for their gripes about the federal government enforcing US law.

Elections are a problem and an opportunity for activists on all sorts of causes.  Once the campaign takes off–and it takes off earlier and earlier these days–it sucks up energy, activists, money, and attention.  It’s harder for social movement activists to get attention for their cause, and even when they do, the electoral implications soon come to take center stage.  The two party system means that citizens with all sorts of grievances with the party closest to them prepare to make unsavory compromises to stave off something even worse.

Citizens who voted for Barack Obama because he promised to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay (he has not!), for example, are unlikely to migrate to Mitt Romney.  Would-be Republican voters who recall the unredeemed Governor Romney, who accepted the science behind climate change and the principle of access to legal abortion, are hardly going to express their worries by voting for Obama.  And all the while news stories will focus on the mechanics and back and forth of the presidential campaign–not the activists issues and disappointments.

It’s exactly what the founders imagined (and Jefferson and Washington were growing hemp.)

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About David S. Meyer

Author and professor of Sociology and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine
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