Sometimes it is best to choose the least objectionable option

I know that, living in the UK, I have no right to comment on the US Presidential election…but, I do reflect that it’s a great time NOT to be in power.  In no way do I say that Obama is perfect, but he was dealt a “bum” (is that the correct expression) hand in terms of wars, debt, recession, etc., and while it can be argued that he could have done better I don’t think anybody could have “solved” the problem in the short term.

In the UK, for example, it’s a great time for the Labour Party not to be in power, just as it is easy for the Republicans to criticise and promise “salvation” from a distance.  It is very hard for the incumbent to defend a difficult position (even if it’s not of his making).

When it comes to drugs policy, and practice unfortunately, Obama is really testing the resolve of his (erstwhile?) supporters.  It does seem inexplicable that he should “allow” the Federal authorities’ attacks on medical cannabis dispensaries and continue massive spending on futile and counter-productive supply side interventions.  Although he has encouraged a more treatment, health and support oriented approach to users (if we can believe ONDCP’s strategies) there is a real sense that he has caved in to the prohibitionists.  Are the private prison owners, arms manufacturers, law enforcement zealots and his evidence-free advisers running the show?  Doesn’t that reveal serious flaws in the man?

Well, let’s look at it another way: was it feasible for Obama to close private prisons, shut down arms factories and reduce law enforcement resources possibly putting  whole towns out of work?  Those are the inevitable consequences of the changes quite properly advocated by drug policy reformers.

Not least, Obama needs to get re-elected in November.  The polls do show increased support for drug policy reform, e.g. the majority are now in favour of legalising marijuana, but imagine the immature glee with which the Republican strategists would greet the news that Obama was going “soft” on drugs.

So, what’s left for those who cling to the belief that Obama is still on the side of the good guys?  Has he been playing a long game and will we see him, in his second term, show his true colours?  He won’t have to worry about re-election and he will be thinking about a legacy…

OK, I may be an incurable optimist, I may have an insecure grasp of the evidence, I may have misinterpreted the signs and I may be unduly influenced by the company I keep (thanks to you all, by the way!) but I would vote for Obama if I could…just imagine the alternative!

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About tomclloyd

International Drug Policy Adviser and former UK Chief Constable
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