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Clarence Page: Obama should listen to Rand Paul and legalize marijuana

BY CLARENCE PAGE Published: March 30, 2013
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He spoke forcefully of the many young nonviolent offenders like President Obama, who has written about his teen drug indiscretions, and possibly former President George W. Bush, who has politely refused to confirm or deny what manner of drug use might have accompanied alcohol during the years before he found sobriety.

“Look, the last two presidents could conceivably have been put in jail for their drug use and I really think, you know, look what would have happened,” he said. “They got lucky, but a lot of poor kids, particularly in the inner city, they don't get lucky, they don't have good attorneys, and they go to jail for these things, and I think it's a big mistake.”

On that note regarding nonviolent drug offenders, Paul strikes a nerve with me and numerous other African Americans and civil rights advocates. As Michelle Alexander, an Ohio State University associate professor of law, writes in her best-seller “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” statistics show a majority of black men in major urban areas to be in jail, on probation, otherwise “under correctional control” or “saddled with criminal records for the rest of their lives.”

And the financial cost on top of the social cost of the failed “war on drugs” has caused such big conservative names as anti-tax lobbyist Grover Norquist, former Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Attorney General Edwin Meese to join others in Right On Crime. That nonpartisan effort is aimed at promoting less costly and more productive alternatives to incarceration, such as drug treatment and community service for nonviolent offenders.

With the trends moving in such a productive direction, I'm hardly alone in wondering what President Obama is waiting for. As with the issue of same-sex marriage, his support could get ahead of the trend and help move it along. He can even claim it was his idea all along.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES