Penn Jillette's rant against Obama's drug policy

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138 Responses to “Penn Jillette's rant against Obama's drug policy”

  1. petertrepan says:

    Obama supports a policy that make good people’s lives suck, wastes billions of dollars, and nurtures a police state.

    For you and me, the money is wasted. For the “czars” in charge of the drug war, it’s a windfall. Regardless of public opinion, there’s going to be a lot of money behind continuing the drug war. Ironically, the money is ours.

  2. einsteinatthemall says:

    Wow, I suppose I haven’t heard Penn in a while – but he’s become a real bloviating, miserable old coot. He’s always presented himself as a modern day sideshow huckster, but this rightfully-labelled “rant” is really out there. His bellowing opinions about Obama and pot just irritate me. Penn is just a storm with nowhere to go.

    • aikimoe says:

      Maybe it’s just me, but I bet having your state-approved business destroyed by the feds or being put in jail for smoking a plant is a little bit more irritating. Plus those things happen without hitting a “play” button.

    • saurabh says:

       I thought he was spot-on. I can’t understand why you think his rant is “really out there”. Can you elaborate?

      • Chris Gabel says:

        Some people can’t tolerate “the good guys” ie: the Democrats, being criticized. That’s “out there.”

    • Thebes says:

      Miserable old coots?
      Sound like our Political Class who keep locking people in cages for having a bit of plant grown by our First President.
      Nah…. on second thought those are petty tyrant scumbags.
      Its there supporters who are miserable old coots…

    • SarahKH says:

      Yet he makes an exceptionally good point, the president of the United States is on record as saying he consumed Cocaine and Majurana, it is intimated in the wording that he did considerable quantities of these drugs. 

      By the laws of the country he’s president of he’d of been sent to prison for years and be inelligable to vote let alone enter in to politics and become president. 

      Yet I don’t see the police arresting the man for admitting he committed an offence that 1 in 6 current residents of American prisons also committed do you?

  3. Eric Russell says:

    I think what’s missing here is looking further back than the Obama administration.  A family friend ran a WAY above the board dispensary that was raided back in 2007 for the simple fact that another dispensary held a grudge for losing sales and called in a “I don’t think things are kosher over there” complaint to the mayor and DEA. When that happened, she lost all computers, money, inventory, everything. Game over.

    • lafave says:

       Yeah, but the problem is, is that Obama has admitted to doing things which he now wants draconian punishments for and in contravention of his campaign shmapaign promises.

    • aikimoe says:

      That’s a terrible thing, to be sure, and I sincerely hope your mother-in-law is doing okay now.

      But I have to disagree that we have to look further back than the Obama administration.  First, there’s absolutely nothing anyone can do about things that were done before Obama was elected, and he has no responsibility for those things.

      But it is precisely raids like the one on your mother-in-law’s dispensary which Obama said he wouldn’t be doing.  And he has done more than Bush.

      We should hold Obama to the same standards of honesty and consistency that we would hold a Republican president.

      • Eric Russell says:

        Fair enough.  The point I was going for was that none of this is really new; I somehow got the impression from Penn’s rant that everything was great before Obama stepped in, and I wanted to remind folks that this simply wasn’t true.  I do agree that Obama’s behavior on this topic are not quite in line with his original stance, though; fair point.

        • aikimoe says:

          I totally understand.  And I do think that the history is important as a way of understanding the culture of authoritarianism that’s pervasive in politics around this issue.

          As a liberal, I actually get madder at Obama than I did at Bush, because Obama is obviously so much smarter, and I honestly think that some part of him is aware of his hypocrisy on this issue.

          And for some emotional reason, it’s less frustrating to be treated badly by someone who brags about treating people badly than it is by someone who you believed when he promised to treat you decently.

          • petertrepan says:

            It’s frustrating because while W. was president, we could believe that fixing the slide into authoritarianism was as easy as electing a liberal. Now that Obama’s in office and we’re making little progress, it’s not as clear what to do next.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            Elect the right, slide to the right.
            Elect the left, stand in place.

            Wag the dog. Only it’s the asshole, not the tail.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            You’re making the same argument that my teachers always made, which was that, since I was smarter, they expected me to perform to a higher level for the same grade. My response to that was, “Fuck that shit.”

            Although it’s perfectly fine and normal to feel that way, it’s a disaster to evaluate the President without making at least some good faith effort to use objective criteria. The Presidency is already a popularity contest. Obama should be judged by whatever metric we used to judge Bush. On drug policy, they’re both getting an F.

          • aikimoe says:

            To Antinous, oh, I agree with you.  They’re both getting an “F.”

            My point is that we expected Bush to get an “F,” as he promised us that’s how he’d perform.

            But, based on what he said, it was reasonable to hope that Obama would get a “C” or even a “B-.”

            And it’s perfectly reasonable to evaluate a President based on what he said he’d do and what he actually did.  Judged on criteria totally unrelated to Bush’s particular performance, Obama fails.

          • niktemadur says:

             @Antinous_Moderator:disqus
            Elect the right, slide to the right.
            Elect the left, stand in place.

            Good one, I’m gonna have to remember it.

        • MediaUnbalance says:

          Could you imagine if Obama tried to do something about this in an election year?  Penn is a libertarian, Cato guy and a global warming denier too.   Penn knows Obama would be eaten alive by the GOP and the right-wing media if he tried to change the laws now.  I’m guessing this is a stunt to convince young voters not to vote for Obama.  

          Could an illusionist be this tricky?

          • John Vance says:

            Character assassination much? I disagree with Penn’s libertarian leanings, but he’s not a “global warming denier,” he doesn’t believe enough data is available to hold an informed opinion http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penn_Gillette#Personal_life . While I disagree, it’s wrong to try to dress him up in Tea Party garb just because he doesn’t toe the Democratic Party line.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            I disagree with Penn’s libertarian leanings, but he’s not a “global warming denier,” he doesn’t believe enough data is available to hold an informed opinion

            In other words, he’s using exactly the same corporate-sucker talking point as every other denialist.

          • chenille says:

            That’s what global warming denying is: not arguing it isn’t real, but ignoring evidence for it and opposing any precautions, so treating it exactly as if it isn’t real.

          • Shane Simmons says:

            ” he’s not a “global warming denier,” he doesn’t believe enough data is available to hold an informed opinion”

            Ever consider running for office?  That was pure politispeak.

  4. Ihavenofuckingname says:

    That is a man that needs a puff of marijuana, a little blow, and a glass of wine.  He’s right, but he sounds like Rush Limbaugh, so I don’t wanna hear it from him.

    • SedanChair says:

      If Rush Limbaugh told you your house was on fire, would you put it out?

    • LikesTurtles says:

      This attitude seems to be common in the skeptical community. Which is too bad because they have important things to say but are only going to alienate both their supporters and those leaning that way with their attitude. But they get to feel good about screaming about the enemy so maybe that’s more important.  I rarely pay attention to Penn anymore for the same reason why I don’t like listening to Brian Dunning speak: they both seem to be more interested in calling people stupid and getting everyone upset rather than spreading information that adds to the discussion.

      I’ll still watch Penn & Teller when they do a show but Penn on his own discussing issue that I probably agree with him 90% on, no thank you. I’ve got better ways to spend my time than having someone poke the anger button for an hour.

      • “This attitude seems to be common in the skeptical community. Which is too bad because they have important things to say but are only going to alienate both their supporters and those leaning that way with their attitude”

        AH-MEN!! ;)

      • Tom Henthorn says:

         But this is an issue that warrants the level of anger he is expressing. It’s oppression, and if that doesn’t make you as angry as he is in this video, then you aren’t paying enough attention. Oppression of any kind should make anyone who claims to value freedom just as furious as Penn is – people’s LIVES are being RUINED over this issue (sorry for the caps; I would use bold or italics if I could).

        • vinculture says:

          Because enforcing the law is oppression.

          • spacedmonkey says:

            Enforcing the law certainly CAN be oppression.  In fact, most oppression in the world today goes under the guise of “enforcing the law” because those with the power to oppress others often also have the power to write the laws, and making a law that lets you oppress people makes the oppression more palatable to idiots.

          • Garrett Eaton says:

            If the law is oppressive, then yes.

          • Shane Simmons says:

            Since people seem to be all about leaning on “enforcing the law” when it’s an issue like drug enforcement or illegal immigration, let’s outlaw guns, and see just how many law-abiding citizens will be willing to stay law-abiding citizens.

          • Thebes says:

            I suppose that no one was ever oppressed by our nation’s Jim Crow laws???

        • penguinchris says:

          You can and should use bold and italics :)

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            I’d be happier if we kept bold down to a word or two. It gets a bit old when somebody emboldenates an entire paragraph.

      • Xof says:

        Modern Political Discourse in a Single Blog Comment:

        “THIS IS TERRIBLE.”

        “You know, if you yell like that, you just turn off your natural supporters.”

        “Oh, OK. You know, this is something we should strongly…”

        “Bored now. Let’s find a real problem.”

      • bkad says:

        Probably many people, like me, use “self control of one’s anger” as a heuristic for judging how sensible a person is. If I catch myself making that pre- judgement I can take a step back and be more rational. That said, I’m  not sure that “angry people probably aren’t thinking clearly” is a such a bad tool for evaluating the messages of the world. 

        • Wreckrob8 says:

          Isn’t one origin of anger the gap between the understanding of a problem and the ability to express it? Neither anger nor over-intellectualising can get to the root of the problem. Feeling anger at the general crapness of life is a better response than resignation.We need more imaginative forms of politically redemptive action and discourse to channel anger in non-destructive ways.

  5. mesocosm says:

    I don’t disagree with his larger point, but he’s saying a first-time offender arrested for possession in the 70s would have served “hard fucking time!”  in federal prison? I think not.

    1 in 6 people in prison in the US are in jail for marijuana-related crimes? I’d love his source on that, because it sets off my bullshit detector big time. The closest number I could find to this was a 1993 pro-legalization article that claimed 1 in 6 people in US prisons were there for nonviolent drug crimes, which is completely different.

    Again – I don’t disagree that the drug war is a horrendous failure, and perhaps the most destructive and counter-productive stance imaginable. But come on – you have to have some respect for the facts.

    • lafave says:

      I don’t disagree with his larger point, but he’s saying a first-time offender arrested for possession in the 70s would have served “hard fucking time!”  in federal prison? I think not.

      Actually, what he said was that the laws as Obama now supports, i.e. current drug laws, not as they were back then.

      1 in 6 people in prison in the US are in jail for marijuana-related crimes?
      ERIC SCHLOSSER

      It’s a pretty large number, in the sense that, certainly, in the federal system, about one out of every six federal inmates is in federal prison for marijuana. That’s a very large number. There are more people now in federal prison for marijuana offenses than for violent offenses. Out of the 1.1 million people in American prisons, the marijuana offenders are not the majority. But there are a lot of them. And certainly, at a time when there’s a shortage of prison space and when murderers are serving on average about six years in prison, it seems absurd to have non-violent marijuana offenders locked up in those large numbers.
      http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/dope/interviews/schlosser.html

      • mesocosm says:

        Re: Schlosser: I saw that, but where did Schlosser get his information? He doesn’t give a source either. It’s possible, but I’d sure like to know.

        I guess I could pull my copy of his book off the shelf and look it up, but gee, that would almost like work.

        I’d content that a first-time offender for simple possession would be equally unlikely today to serve “hard fucking time!” in Federal prison.

        • petertrepan says:

          He may have been referring to the penalty for cocaine possession, which is harsher. Also, the more serious charge of “intent to sell” is based on the quantity possessed, and it doesn’t have to be a huge amount.

          • Jim says:

            I’d love to know the incarceration rates for simple possession.

            According to NORML, the max Federal penalties for 1st time possession of pot is 1 year, and $1000. There are no minimums.
            States vary of course, but my own state allows probation for 1st time possession. 

            No way in hell that 1/6 of the prison population are plain-ole pot smokers, or even coke users.

      • “Actually, what he said was that the laws as Obama now supports, i.e. current drug laws, not as they were back then.”

        Does Obama support them? Or is he simply enforcing the law? If he did otherwise, he would simply be choosing which laws to enforce. Is that really what we want?

        • lafave says:

          Under Obama, the DEA has raided more medical marijuana dispensaries than under George W Bush; Under Obama, the INS has deported more Latino immigrants than under Bush.  Obama announced that his administration would no longer defend the DOMA in federal court, to counter your argument (not that I object to the lack of enforcement).

          Obama brags about austerity.  His spokesholes talk up charter schools and talk down teacher unions.  Obama is chomping at the bit to cut Social Security.  There is now a bipartisan consensus for a neoliberal/conservative agenda.

          Which way does the wind blow?  As the Black Agenda Report states:  Obama is not the lesser evil.  Obama is the more effective evil. 

          • you: “Obama announced that his administration would no longer defend the DOMA in federal court, to counter your argument (not that I object to the lack of enforcement).”

            wikipedia: “The Obama administration announced in 2011 that it had determined that Section 3 was unconstitutional and, though it would continue to enforce the law, it would no longer defend it in court.”

            And it was just declared unconstitutional by a federal judge in Cali.

          • StreetEight says:

            So why was there no challenge to Obama from the left this election cycle??

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            There have been plenty of challenges from the left. Maybe you should broaden your news sources.

        • lafave says:

          ok, first, that hasn’t been appealed yet, but even if upheld, would only be unconst. in that appellate circuit.  It was ruled not unconstitutional in another circuit. 

          The executive doesn’t determine constitutionality, the Supremes are the ultimate arbiter of constitutionality since Marbury v. Madison.

          But since you argued that Obama, as president, can’t pick and choose what laws to enforce/defend.  I was merely illustrating that he already does.

          Also: accounting control fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, SEC violations – Wall Street ruins the economy, various and sundry commentators all scream fraud – and the DOJ does not even investigate – too bad the economy wasn’t ruined by medical marijuana dispensaries, or maybe the dispensaries just didn’t float enough campaign cash.

          And violations of the Geneva convention, torture, illegal spying – all of which was admitted by prior members of the administration – Obama “we have to look forward”.

          Jesus, man, Obama already picks and chooses what laws to enforce. It isn’t “the Department of Justice” it’s the Department of Just Us.

    • mesocosm says:

      I found some good data from 2004 here:
      http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/dudsfp04.pdf

      This report shows the percentage of federal prisoners incarcerated for marijuana-related crimes at 12.4%, well below the quoted 16.7%, and, notably, down significantly from 1997′s figure, which was 18.9%

      I’d also stress that these statistics are subject to misinterpretation because this is a non-exclusive classification. That is, possession or trafficking in marijuana is not necessarily the only crime leading to incarceration.

      Two more facts pointed out by this report that are worth noting:
       - 17% of State and 18% of Federal prisoners committed their crime to obtain money for drugs, and
       - nearly a third of State and a quarter of Federal prisoners committed their offense under the influence of drugs.

      • Jim says:

        In 2004, 91% of prisoners held for drug offenses were traffickers, only 5% were in there for possession. (Reckon some of that 5% were reduced charges for traffickers, too?)

        Federal policy is stupid, but it’s not filling the prisons with drug consumers who mind their own business.

        • ChicagoD says:

          Federal prisons are not. 50 states plus P.R. and D.C.? Not so sure.

        • Antinous / Moderator says:

          In 2004, 91% of prisoners held for drug offenses were traffickers

          91% were convicted of trafficking. I don’t necessarily accept that what the (probably elected) DA talked a jury into is the truth.

    • mindfu says:

      I have to say, if the person caught was black and in Chicago in the 1970′s, doing hard time for a first offense for coke doesn’t seem that out of the question.

      • mesocosm says:

         I did the hard work of googling “70s chicago conviction cocaine first offense” and found that social tolerance for cocaine use was high in the 70s, and resulted in concordantly low sentences. FWIW.

  6. theophrastvs says:

    Surely one of the major political digs that the mormon (‘even coffee is a sin’) republicans will go after is Obama’s hypocrisy on marijuana http://www.buzzfeed.com/gavon/a-users-guide-to-smoking-pot-with-barack-obama   …among his many weak progressive links, this is indeed one of his weakest.

  7. I always have mixed feelings about Penn. He’s like that smart kid in middle school who always makes points you agree with, but does it to show off how smart he is, so you kind of can’t stand him. He also bugs me by waving away the treatment option (because it’s from the evil gummint), which was actually essential to Portugal’s total decriminalization of drugs and the subsequent drop in addiction rates (according to Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2011/07/05/ten-years-after-decriminalization-drug-abuse-down-by-half-in-portugal/ ).

    • Tom Henthorn says:

       Re: treatment: the point is that mandatory treatment would be just as unjustified as imprisonment, because the bottom line is these people aren’t doing anything wrong, so they do not deserve mandatory ANYTHING. If treatment was optional, that would be a great idea and I would fully support it.

      • petertrepan says:

        It’s worth mentioning that I know someone who was tested by the same rehab clinic that received tax money for his mandatory treatment when he tested positive. You always have to watch out for perverse incentives.

    • JIMWICh says:

       Yeah!  Because when kids show off how athletic and physically skilled they are, we kind of can’t stand them either!

      Oh, wait…

  8. Aloisius says:

    As much as I dislike the US’s drug policy, some of what Penn is spouting is well… bullshit.

    The vast majority of people in federal prison exclusively for drug offenses are there for intent to sale or trafficking, not simply possession (95%). It is likely that even if Obama under his own rules would have never seen a federal prison for possession. Now state prison is another matter. The states put away far more people for simple possession, but Obama doesn’t have any power there.

    Also that 1 in 6 number is for drug offenders, not necessarily *non-violent* drug offenders. I know people like to assume all drug offenders are non-violent, but that’s simply not true for people involved in trafficking and sale.

    • aikimoe says:

      The bigger, most important points, about Obama’s hypocrisy and the way his path to the Presidency would have been destroyed if he’d been arrested for breaking laws he supports, remain.

      Then there’s the raiding of medical marijuana dispensaries at higher rates than Bush after he said he’d pretty much ignore them.

      Any bullshit spouted by Penn is negligible compared to the lives and livelihoods destroyed by Obama.

      • It is his duty to enforce the law, not choose which laws he’s going to enforce.  The appropriate people to be mad at are legislators. If the House and Senate send Obama a bill to legalize it, and Obama vetoes it, then maybe I can listen to Penn get all mad and scream.

        • aikimoe says:

          This is simply wrong.  He can unilaterally reschedule marijuana.  He can order his Justice Dept. to stop busting medical marijuana dispensaries, just as he stopped defending DOMA and DADT.   Even if he really had to raid MM dispensaries (and he doesn’t) nothing stops him from voicing the position that no one should go to jail for using marijuana.  He could easily not be an authoritarian, hypocritical dick if he chose not to be.  Obama chooses to be.

          http://www.salon.com/2012/04/26/obama_justice_and_medical_marijuana/ 

          “Interesting how this principle holds for prosecuting [medical] marijuana producers in the war on drugs, but not for prosecuting US officials in the war on terror.  Ortelecommunications companies for illegal spying.  Or Wall Street banks for mortgage fraud.” 

        • Thebes says:

          Obama’s regime  chooses which laws get enforced all the time.

          BP gave him a mint last selection cycle and no one went to prison for the worst environmental disaster in the nation’s history. The laws were not enforced. Regulators had been taking meth and hookers as bribes and no one went to prison.
          He also took a shitload of money from Wall Street in the last selection cycle. Maybe you didn’t notice but the crimes of Wall Street’s execs crashed our economy, and still none of the scumbags went to prison. Instead his administration ended up with a revolving door to the very worst banks who were rewarded for their crimes (and donations).
          But… sell a water pipe for the express purpose of “smoking tobacco” and your door could be kicked in at 3am.

    • Anne Pauw says:

      It should be noted, though, that intent to sell is a pretty vague designation, and one that is subject to a broad interpretation. That, and most people don’t really know how much weed will get you slapped with intent to sell, as the amount varies to a pretty ridiculous extent depending on location. 

      • jimh says:

        Very vague, it can be according to amount, or even if it was in separate  bags.

        Say you have more than one kind, and it was bagged separately: Intent. You have a scale: Intent.

        • spacedmonkey says:

          Are you saying that we should be throwing people in jail for selling weed?   Because you seem to just be assuming something as obvious that seems pretty obviously abominable to me.

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        Who cares if they’re selling dope? Maybe you can make a case against PCP, but marijuana? Absurd.

        • niktemadur says:

          I’d lump crystal meth in there with PCP, highly addictive sheer poison with no redeeming value whatsoever.

          Even cocaine has its’ benevolent side, in the form of chewable coca leaves as opposed to the powder.  But we ain’t gonna see that at the local farmer’s market anytime soon.

  9. Penn may be a blowhard, and guilty of some hyperbole here, but essentially what he’s saying is true.  Obama may not have done ‘hard time’, but it would have affected his life/career quite negatively. Having a drug conviction may have prevented him from going to law school, and it definitely would have made starting a political career near impossible. 

    What about the guys that Obama bought his weed or blow from, or the guy who grew the weed? Would he feel bad/responsible if he found out those guys were in jail?  Because they would certainly be doing ‘hard time’ if they got caught for distribution.

  10. I always have mixed feelings about Penn. 

  11. franko says:

    honestly, i liked him better when he stuck to magic tricks.

  12. Slant says:

    Is it just me, or does Penn’s voice sound similar to Rush’s?  Damn, wish I hadn’t noticed that.

  13. stegodon says:

    Jesus, man. Maybe look into having that first glass of wine. 

  14. Drabula says:

    It seems damn near everyone in this thread is playing the nit-pickin nanny game and that’s got to be yet another reason why it’s so damn hard to get any actual progressive change in America. As a horrible, corrupt anti-human cluster fuck like the ‘drug war’ wages from coast to coast all we wanna do is pile on a comment board and say how much we don’t like Penn. God help us self-defeating pathetic shits.

    • Tom Henthorn says:

       THANK YOU for pointing this out.

    • chenille says:

      Except it looks like everyone here is for progressive change. There’s no harm in also pointing out that the spokesman is a stopped watch – “guy from Cato Institute argues against government action” works just as well for great policies as terrible.

      • aikimoe says:

        Anyone who votes for Obama may be “for progressive change,” but they are actively working against it.

        • Preston Sturges says:

          And many “libertarians” are for a merger of church and state, government that climbs up your lady parts, and corporate control of your drinking water.

          • aikimoe says:

            This is factually incorrect.

            I am, by no means, a libertarian.  I support universal access to healthcare and universal access to education.

            But I know that libertarians are more liberal than Obama and the Democrats on issues of civil liberties, criminal justice, and foreign policy.

            And the vast majority libertarians prefer a strict separation between church and state, even the libertarian ones.

            Two of the leading writers on libertarian ideas view abortion as the complex issue that it is, and remain pro-choice.

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxtAF6Bi0Nk 

      • Rindan says:

        This is what blows about politics.  Even when  you agree with someone, you are incapacitated by the fact that they don’t agree with you on some utterly unrelated piece of policy, but you damn well will close your eyes when “your team” is acting like a blowhards.
        If you are a civil libertarian, and most BoingBoing’rs are, you agree with almost everything the Cato Institute has to say on the subject.  They are for ending the war on drugs, the war on terror, and the kind of wars fought using tanks, drones, and bombs.  They want to neuter homeland security.  They want freer and more open immigration.  They are fanatical about freedom of speech and the separation of church and state.  

        Where the fuck does “your guy” stand on those topics?

        I’m not saying that you need to love Cato.  I’m saying that you need to stand with them (and other such groups) when they are speaking your truth.  Most people have shown an epic ability to ignore when “their team” is acting like douche bags and rationalize away their horrid policies.  Apply those same powers when someone from the “other team” agrees with you.

        I think one of biggest reasons why our shit drug laws are not changing is because people who disagree on economic policy can’t fucking get their shit together for thirty seconds and offer up a united front on the policies that they do agree on.

        I don’t mean to pick on just you.  There are plenty of tea party blowhards who claim libertarianism yet wouldn’t be caught standing next to a hippie advocating for sane drug policy.

        • chenille says:

          What makes you think I have “a guy”? I like Obama more than the Cato Institute, but he has been horrible on many issues. If we were setting policy here, I would support Cato over him, in this instance. But they have their own agenda, and I could never recommend them as trustworthy in general.

          And we’re not setting policy here, Rindan, we’re chatting on the internet. We don’t gain anything by sticking up for ideologues just because they happen to be right twice a day. We don’t have to rationalize away anything.

          Because we’re not playing in teams right now, we’re making our own calls. And honestly, I think that is far better for politics than your suggestion to ignore crap from more directions.

          • Rindan says:

            Half of the thread is “OMFG HE IS FROM CATO SHUT UR EARS!!111!!!!”.  The same thing happens when Mark posts something from Reason that is ardently defending civil liberty.  People flip their shit because it is from Reason.  It gets dull.  Disagree with the argument?  Great, post why.  Bitch and moan because you don’t like the messenger’s stance on the utterly unrelated topic of bank bail outs (though Cato would actually be against those…)? Pointless.  

            Pointing out that you think the messenger is an asshole on some other topic when they don’t touch said other topic is pointless and dumb.  It is a purely an ad hominem attack on someone delivering a message you freaking agree with.  It would be like spamming the thread where we all cheer Obama for getting around to “evolving” his support for gay marriage with “OMFG, I agree with Obama on this, but that asshole imprisons people who use marijuana and keeps funding Homeland Security.  He is an asshole.”

            Perhaps the biggest reason why I find this so annoying is that because I myself am a recovering libertarian who would now call  himself a liberal.  I understand where Cato comes from in all things, even when I violently disagree.  What pisses me off about dismissing Cato because it is Cato is that you are failing to learn a valuable lesson when you agree with them.  Traditional lefty arguments on stuff like this falls on deaf ears when talking to a conservative.  The way Cato frames their objections on the other hand can crack the skull of a conservative in half.  

            Beating a conservative over the head with pro-liberty, anti-government intrusion arguments the way Cato does is frighteningly effective.  Sadly, liberals often fail to use this language and revert to their own when trying to win these arguments with people who don’t speak their language.

            If you don’t like the source, but love the message, consider it a gift.  You just learned someone’s kryptonite.  You would be better served understanding it rather than trying to dismiss it as only agreeing without you by chance.

  15. Joshua Ochs says:

    While a lot of points have been raised about the validity of the statistics, the stat I’d really like to see is if you removed the possession criminalization, how many of these people would be free? Many would still be there because it was other related crimes that put them in prison, and there are of course intent-to-sell. So for how many was simple possession either the only factor, or the tipping factor? That’s probably the most important info because it directly tells you what the impact would be of decriminalization of possession, but it’s also going to be hard as heck to determine as you have to do some in-depth analysis of the cases to pull it out.

    • Rindan says:

      Why do you separate out intent to sell with simple possession?  They are two sides of the same coin.  What makes it immoral to jail someone for possession also makes it immoral to jail someone for distributing.

      The problem with criminalization is the black market.  All of the nasty stuff surrounding the drug trade is purely a function of it being a black market.  When you have a black market, it means you can’t go to the authorities to settle disputes.  When that happens, people get nasty.  Destroy the black market by making it legit, and all of the that nastiness vanishes.

      We have already seen this once in history.  Alcohol prohibition gave rise to gangs of unprecedented power. When prohibition ended, the gangs withered and died.  Kill the black market and drugs and you wipe out most criminality in America.  Criminal gangs can’t compete with a local pharmacy.  If there were no illegal drugs to sell, gangs wouldn’t have any way to make money.

      Black markets are the greatest of evils.  Marijuana should be made fully legal if for no other reason than to wreak havoc on the black markets in the US.  Without marijuana, the most profitable and widely sold drug, you would seen funding for criminal activities get castrated.  It wouldn’t make the US a perfect happy utopia of peace and leave, but it sure as shit would get you a lot closer than any other single policy measure.

  16. mindfu says:

    Penn is basically correct. 

    That said, the bind we are in is that Romney is certain to be worse, in this way as well as every important other way.

    So it’s good and right to point these things out and keep pressure on our politicians; but it is also important to remember that, at the end of the day, we really DO have to vote for the lesser of two evils.

    • aikimoe says:

      No, you don’t.  You can CHOOSE to do so, and I understand that.

      But it is precisely because progressives continue to support people who do evil that evil is allowed to be done.  If Obama knew that progressives wouldn’t vote for someone who destroyed the lives of innocent people, he’d stop doing it.  But people will, so he won’t.

      • BlackPanda says:

        With all due respect, how do you know that?

        I thought the was incredibly well-put, personally. It’s a fundamental affront to a very basic liberty, that all across the world, people are locked up because of a plant. But a lot of people seem to be concentrating on the fact that this chap is a bit shouty.

        • aikimoe says:

          Mr. Panda, I admit that I don’t know it.  I’m asserting it, and I could be wrong.

          But historically, people will do what they’re allowed to do, and especially if they’re rewarded for doing it.  If Obama does something wrong, but is still supported by millions of people, there’s no reason for him to stop.

          However, if those millions of people spoke with their votes and said, “If you actively destroy the lives of innocent people for political purposes, we will not support you,” then it’s possible, likely even, that politicians would be less likely to engage in that behavior.

    • Thebes says:

      If people keep voting for the supposed “lesser of two evils” why are people surprised when all of our Political Class turns out to be evil?

  17. Navin_Johnson says:

    C’mon guys, Sam Kinison has something to say here.

  18. jimh says:

    I agree with Penn here, but his message is about one politician in particular, and that’s unfortunate. I think the whole thing is about classist hypocrisy. Clinton didn’t inhale. W had alcohol and cocaine in his past. Obama admits to drug use earlier in life.

    And yet the law pursues and locks up less privileged people for these very things. We need reform, for sure. I just wish Penn wasn’t using Obama as the poster child, because he’s not the first, or only, POTUS who is part of this problem. And he’s MORE likely than others to address it. What do you think Romney’s stance on any of this will be?

    • aikimoe says:

      He’ s not MORE likely to address it as he’s raiding more MM dispensaries than Bush did.

      The reason Obama is used as the poster child is that he is presently in office and many people will reward him for his abominable behavior with their votes.

      • jimh says:

        Is it him doing the raiding? I mean, how personally is he involved in such decisions? I honestly don’t know.

        I’m not saying he lived up to my expectations, or that I’m pleased with everything he’s done so far. But let’s not pretend a third party candidate has any chance. Later this year, either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will win the election. I have trouble seeing Romney advancing the progressive agenda on ANY issue. While Obama in a second term with the right congress might have a chance.

        • aikimoe says:

          Obama runs the Justice Dept. and if he wanted them to leave medical marijuana dispensaries alone, he would.  Presently, the government treats marijuana as a schedule 1 drug, more dangerous than cocaine and meth, with no medical benefit.  Obama could, if he wanted, reschedule it so that it is considered less dangerous than cocaine and meth, and with medical benefit.

          I agree with you 100% that a third party candidate can’t win and that Romney won’t advance a progressive agenda.

          But many liberals like myself believe that the reason Obama and the Democrats aren’t progressive on issues of civil rights, criminal justice, and foreign policy, is because they know that people will vote for them no matter what they do, as long as the Republicans are a little worth.

          We refuse to lend support to any candidate who actively destroys the lives of innocent people.  If all liberals did this, Democrats might stop their conservative behaviors.

  19. Walter Reade says:

    Big Pharma would lose out big if people could legally smoke dope.

    • jimh says:

      Agreed. And alcohol producers don’t like the idea much either.
      It makes me wonder what side the (also powerful) tobacco lobby is on. It would seem like a lateral move for them, and a more profitable product. Tobacco use is in heavy decline after all.

    • Thebes says:

      And big pharma “gave generously” for this, one of countless Obomber sellouts.

      Don’t forget the donations from the prison guard union either…

  20. gwailo_joe says:

    The message is one I agree with: Americas drug laws and insistence on mandatory minimums and criminal charges for non-violent drug offenses is hypocritical in the extreme, damaging to millions of Americans and, most important of all: Completely Ineffective.

    And yeah, I feel Obama is letting me down when the DEA raids medical distributors and threatens their landlords: That’s fucked up Barry and you should know it.

    But in this case, the messenger needs to turn down the bombast.  If I’m going to listen to some guy yell at me about something I already know: it should make me laugh or think.

    In my opinion this ‘rant’ does neither.  But I will say this; for all his faults and flaws and disappointments, if you care at all about your personal freedoms and do not vote for the Obama ticket in November…

    on your own head be it

    • Walt Guyll says:

       Vote for Obama because his last election advanced personal freedom? Not sure where your head is…

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        Vote for Obama because his last election advanced personal freedom? Not sure where your head is…

        Head is possibly thinking about people other than straight, white men, some of whom have gotten some more personal freedom during this administration.

        • Walt Guyll says:

           It ain’t just straight white guys getting groped at the airport and being droned with extreme prejudice.

          • gwailo_joe says:

            Again: the Obama Administration has not followed through with many of the promises we wish he would support.  

            But if you think for one second that voting for the other guy (or non-voting as protest) will make things better…

            I respectfully disagree. The alternative will be far worse.

          • Walt Guyll says:

             You make a strong case for Kang over Kodos.

  21. Gideon Jones says:

    So quick story here…

    The year Obama took office, he and the Democrats tried to fulfill one of Obama’s drug related campain promises.  Specifically, they tried to pass a bill removing the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine.  

    The former is mostly used by poor people of color, the latter by rich White people.  Not coincidentally, sentences for possession of the two types of cocaine are totally different, with powder cocaine users allowed 100 times more of the drug than crack users.

    Conservatives objected merely to leveling drug sentences out across racial and class lines, and threatened to filibuster the bill.  The two sides negotiated, and the bill was eventually passed in a compromise version that let powder cocaine users possess 18 times as much cocaine as crack users before mandatory sentencing kicked in, rather than 100 times.  Woo?

    So that’s where drug policy stands in the US congress.  The idea that Obama can change US drug policy to the full on legalization that Penn (and I) would like, is basically fantasy. Someone like Penn who is usually all logic and reason and skepticism should understand that.

    • Walt Guyll says:

       On the other hand, Obama can remove marijuana from Schedule One classification with the stroke of a pen.

      • Gideon Jones says:

        And then what?  I mean, do you not even consider that question when you make a claim like that?  

        Ignoring the rather obvious, and rather immediate political consequences of doing something like that is part of the fantasy people have going on here.  You can ignore the consequences in your fantasy, but that doesn’t make them go away in reality.  

        • Walt Guyll says:

          Removing marijuana from Schedule One would allow doctors to prescribe it and keep existing treaties intact. Isn’t that a good thing?
          Does Obama want to do good things or merely avoid political blowback in order to maintain power?
          You can throw your vote to someone that wants power at any cost or give it to a third party candidate closer to your actual philosophy.

          • Gideon Jones says:

            Doing good things that result in much worse things isn’t actually very good.  It’s actually pretty bad.  

            And getting things done, and keeping nutjob right wingers out of office is my actual philosophy.

          • gwailo_joe says:

            I totally agree with you: legalization is not the issue.  Not yet.

            Decriminalization, starting with the recategorization of pot for medical uses is the move that needs to be made.

            But third party candidates?  I tried that once, regretted it ever since.  The stakes are too high to make a futile stand for idealism…just keep the madmen out.

        • Dave Pease says:

          good question–what?  dogs and cats living together?  mass hysteria?

        • aikimoe says:

          If you care about politics more than actually doing the right thing, then, yes, you’re right, politicians shouldn’t do the right thing.  If you believe it’s better that Democrats destroy the lives of innocent people than that Republicans do so, then it makes sense to lend support to Democrats who destroy the lives of innocent people.

          But I seem to remember a candidate who said things were going to change.  And then he made sure that they didn’t.

        • saurabh says:

          Whatever, buddy. You continue quivering in your boots. You’re a classic Democrat: so afraid to act that the right continues to step all over you, while you desperately try to “triangulate” your way out of it. Do you really think people would react that badly to decriminalizing marijuana? Most of the country is in favor of it. You’ve constructed a bogeyman in your head – “my god, if we do that, SOMETHING BAD, I am not sure what, might happen. We might lose an election because the right-wingers will call us potheads!” Well, guess what? They’re already calling you potheads. Find some guts. Do the right thing. That’s what will get people fired up.

  22. bolamig says:

    I usually agree with Penn’s positions on things, as I do here.  But I don’t trust him any more than I trust Obama or any politician.  He often uses hyperbole and exaggeration in fact-based arguments.  It feels like sleight of hand just comes naturally to him. 

    For instance he did a TV show on how ridiculous it is that public toilets provide those disposable seatcovers.  I agree it’s ridiculous, but only because wiping the toilet seat with toilet paper that’s already there is a much more effective way of keeping yourself from getting stranger bodily fluids on your skin.  He took it too far, arguing that nobody ever catches any diseases from sitting on public toilet seats.  That suggests to me that he’s out of touch, living in a bubble where his money protects him from problems that the rest of us have to deal with.  If you’ve ever been to a Southern country with signs warning not to crouch with feet on the toilet rim, you’d know that toilets can be disease vectors.

    1 out of 6 in jail for smoking weed?  No.

  23. Quinx says:

    The War on Drugs is pure evil – an attack on citizens by their own government for no other purpose than power and greed, and it has NEVER been anything else.  Research the origins of the prohibition of drugs starting in the early 20th century and learn the truth.

  24. Preston Sturges says:

    Penn’s right!  I’m going to vote for the guy that never drank coffee, never saw a picture of naked woman, and never  masturbated.  I mean Romney, not Norman bates. 

  25. Shashwath T.R. says:

    All this leads me to a basic question about the US and its politics. You guys always refer to the “Bush administration” or the “Obama administration”, as though those four or eight years are characterized by that one person.

    How much day-to-day influence does the person, Barak Hussein Obama, have over the actions of the “Obama administration”? It seems to me that there’s an opacity involved here – policies that are most probably made by a large group are tagged onto a single person, who may or may not personally support them.

    If it’s a single person making these decisions, that seems like an awful bottleneck in the process, not to mention that it’s pretty much tantamount to an elected dictator for four years. If on the other hand, it’s a collective process, Penn’s charge re Obama’s having smoked in his early life is misdirected at best. As an individual, he may support legalization, but as a member (the leader, but a member nevertheless) of a team, he may not be free to make that statement in public.

    So, is Obama the right target for this attack? Or should you be looking at a finer grained picture of the administration – who supports and who doesn’t – and attack those persons?

    • Trevor Smith says:

       Obama doesn’t support legalization and has continued going after medical marijuana and says nothing so yeah I think it is fair to attack our dear leader. Are you an Obama supporter? What about Hemp? I also blame all Democrats, Republicans and anyone dumb enough to support/give money to them.

      • Shashwath T.R. says:

        That’s my question; how do you know that he’s personally against legalization? Is it him, or the team?

        More importantly, is the strategy of attacking him even useful? I mean, given that there are other people involved in the decision, even from the executive side, are you right in targeting only one person? I’m not talking about blame; I’m talking about tactics and strategy…

        Anyway, I don’t have any horses in this particular race – it matters to me only in terms of an interesting situation. I don’t particularly care what your internal policies are, as long as you don’t invade my country…

  26. CognitiveDissident says:

    Really, if pot was legalised, you would be denying clients to the Prison-Industrial-Complex, how would they meet their quotas? And the Pharmaceutical-Industrial-Complex, a daily joint might prevent the sale of a myriad of painkillers-with-side-effects. So selfish, to think only of yourselves and those left rotting in prison. I suppose that the next thing that I’m going to read is that alcohol would be a gateway drug if only the drug dealers sold it! Have some sympathy for the big guys too, OK? Do you think setting the system up this way was easy? It was very hard work!

  27. He’s on target with this one.

  28. niktemadur says:

    Penn singles out and spits at the disgusting nudge-nudge wink-wink attitude on display between Obama and Jimmy Fallon.
    Ah yes, Jimmy Fallon, fawning all over the 1% with his brain-dead Capitol One commercials, “It’s more money!  Cash!  Who doesn’t like more cash?”  You know, a friendly, inoffensive face for the predatory Powers-That-Be to parade around on the teevee and for you, gentle viewer, to consume.

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