Gibson: Obama administration hazy on marijuana policy

In response to a question taken at a town hall meeting regarding marijuana legalization, President Barack Obama was quick to say, "No, I don't think that [legalization] is a good strategy to grow our economy."

Many people were disappointed by his reaction, as Obama did not offer any counter-arguments and completely ignored the potential medical and social benefits of ending the prohibition on marijuana.

Yes, some who wish to see marijuana legalized use it for recreational purposes, but the other benefits cannot be ignored. Cannabis is known to ease pain disorders, including the side-effects cancer patients experience throughout treatment.

In addition to this, legalization would strike an enormous blow to organized crime, free up the overflowing prison system and reduce violence along the Mexican-American border.

Our president is a very smart man; it is hard to believe that he has not seen these potential benefits. Why, then, did Obama not acknowledge any of these arguments for legalization? Why did he dismiss the question so quickly?

The answers to these questions may lie in the actions of his predecessors. Particularly, let's take a look at Abraham Lincoln, whom Obama has been compared to at great length.

Lincoln, the great emancipator, had to employ the political tactic of misdirection: the process of obscuring one's true beliefs through rhetoric. At the time, his progressive views on race were not acceptable to the majority of America, and it would have been political suicide to publically announce his opposition to slavery.

In the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates, Lincoln was quoted as saying, "I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and black races."

At first, this may seem unbelievable, but think about it: If Lincoln had outright established his commitment to social equality he would not have been politically viable and would never have been elected. He had to hide his true beliefs in order to save the Union from the impending disaster of the Civil War.

So when Obama was confronted with a question as controversial as one regarding drug laws, what other acceptable response could he have given? The Republicans are recalcitrant enough as it is. If Obama had seemed at all sympathetic to the drug-law reform, the Republicans would probably be even less cooperative toward any of his future plans.

Furthermore, the subject is controversial enough with the American people that seeming sympathetic to legalization would seriously jeopardize Obama's chances of reelection. Finally, the president has much more important issues to worry about at the present moment.

Notice his wording: Obama speaks only of the economy. He says nothing of medical or social benefits. Were he unilaterally opposed to legalization, he definitely would have addressed those areas. By answering the question the way he did, Obama left himself open to future reform without having to go back on his word.

So what was the only possible response? Reduce the question to ridiculousness. Make it a joke. Laugh at it. Which is exactly what he did.

Taimur Gibson is a freshman IR major who sees through the purple haze of politicking.