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Friday, July 8, 2011

Twitter Defends Snub of #AskObama Question on Marijuana Legalization

Posted By on Fri, Jul 8, 2011 at 7:40 AM

click to enlarge @Obama: Marijuana is one way to curb the debt ceiling crisis
  • @Obama: Marijuana is one way to curb the debt ceiling crisis

When will Americans give President Barack Obama a break? Seems like every time BHO II turns to new media to engage his coast-to-coast constituents on the issues, they take the conversation back to the same old place.

Legalizing drugs.

But unlike Obama's YouTube summit held in January, where the president briefly addressed marijuana legalization, the War on Drugs was absent from his Tuesday town hall held via Twitter. That's a problem, because as RawStory pointed out earlier this week, marijuana legalization was the most popular question Americans wanted to #AskObama.

Twitter defended the supposed snub to SF Weekly

on Thursday, pointing out that questions on healthcare and the

country's foreign wars also didn't make the 14-question cut. A favorable

comparison to Obamacare? That's a first for the marijuana movement.

In a page directly from former Mayor Gavin Newsom's playbook, the president asked the country to send in questions to his Twitter town hall, held Tuesday, via tweets hashtagged #AskObama. Of the 14 questions and three follow-up questions picked for presentation to the president by forum moderator Jack Dorsey, one of Twitter's founders, not one of them mentioned legalizing drugs.

The national chapter of National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) posed the following question: "Would you consider legalizing marijuana to increase revenue and save tax dollars by freeing up crowded prisons, courtrooms?"

Not only was it the most popular question, it was almost three times more popular than the runner-up, receiving 4,911 retweets compared to the second most popular question, which was tweeted 1,800 times, according to RawStory. This led NORML and others to call shenanigans on the entire affair.

"Regardless of Twitter's role in determining which question was asked, the president should be proactive and address this issue himself," said Morgan Fox, communications director for Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, a legalization-focused lobbying group. "It's not surprising that he would continue to avoid talking about the issue. There is no good reason marijuana is still illegal, and it's hard to publicly defend such a failed policy with a straight face."

It's not quite so simple as that, Twitter spokeswoman Jodi Olson says. "Narrowing down 160,000-plus Tweets into just 17 questions is no easy task," Olson wrote in an e-mail.

Retweets were just one indicator of an #AskObama question's popularity. Mass Revelance, a social curation firm, sorted the horde of 140-character inquiries to find out which created the most buzz. Then a select group of Twitter users (called "curators") further culled the list and found that the most popular questions "were jobs (23 percent); the budget (18 percent); taxes (18 percent); and education (11 percent), and you'll note that the questions asked roughly corresponded to this," Olson wrote.

That's fine, but isn't NORML's question about jobs, the budget, and taxes? After Obama answered a tweet from Speaker of the House John Boehner, NORML fired out a tweet of its own: "#AskObama why they will answer Rep. Boehner's question, but won't talk about #CannabisJobs ! Legalize it, start a new job creating industry."

Olson admitted that NORML's question did address jobs and taxes, but again, she said, time was short. "There was time for only 17 questions -- three of which were follow-ups -- and the topic of marijuana legislation simply didn't make the top 14," she wrote. "Neither did healthcare, the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Social Security, nor other relevant economic themes."

"That said," she added, "the beauty of the open nature of Twitter is that NORML and others were able to get their message out far and wide even without the president specifically addressing the question."

Favorable comparisons to wars, Obamacare, AND the bulliest [SIC] pulpit on which to be ignored? Yes, it was a red-letter day for the green movement.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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