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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Monday 30th January 2012

When Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination in 2008, it was usually said that his exploitation of electronic media and social networks, especially for fund-raising made all the difference. Since his election, he has continued to use the latest technologies to communicate with US citizens and to let them communicate with him.

In the latest new development, the President took part in a Google+ Hangout answering questions previously submitted either in text form or as YouTube videos. The event was billed as a chance for the public to follow-up on things included in the recent State of the Union address. The stream, at least for me, had its hiccups so there is still a way to go for this sort of communication to be easy to follow.

The procedure for getting to the questions to be asked was that, as soon as a question was submitted, it was available for people to vote on. This was put forward as a means of indicating the questions most people wanted answered.

Cannabis sativa, marijuana

Cannabis sativa, marijuana

Quite early on, groups calling for a rational policy over Cannabis sativa, marijuana, submitted questions. Some of those questions were withdrawn from the voting process after being deemed ‘inappropriate’ but they were replaced by questions asking why it was ‘inappropriate’ to ask about a subject that looks likely to be a key issue throughout 2012 leading up to the November elections.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) submitted a question about cannabis and asked people to vote to promote the question. By the time the voting closed the LEAP question which you can see on YouTube had received twice as many votes as any other video submitted question and was second of all questions with a text question about extradition over copyright infringement ranking first. The LEAP website has more information.

It was made clear that the vote would only influence which questions were selected not mandate them so I watched the streamed ‘Interview with the President’ to see if the LEAP question would be asked.

The interview, scheduled for 45 minutes, began with questions about the economy that took up the first 25 minutes. After that, the topic switched to foreign affairs with a question about US aid dollars being paid to countries that didn’t seem to deserve it, like Pakistan. Obama addressed the question of Pakistan but did not relate that to the situation in Afghanistan and made no mention of opium production in that region.

The following question was about the use of drones and it was asked via a YouTube video submission, which, obviously, was a less popular question than that submitted by LEAP.

After 32 minutes, the topic switched to education with a question being asked live by a high school student video-linked into the ‘Hangout’ (as were four other people and the moderator).

Cannabis sativa, marijuana

Cannabis sativa, marijuana

After 42 minutes, the moderator brought in the subject of copyright, using a video question rather than the text question that polled the highest number of votes. At 44 minutes, the moderator read out the text question which was about extradition procedures against someone who is alleged to have infringed copyright.

At 45 minutes the moderator introduced a joke video of someone impersonating Obama, saying that it was the last video question. The impersonator asked whether Obama thought spoofs and comedy could alter the result of an election. It’s a pity no-one got to ask him whether he thinks burying his head in the sand when it comes to the issue of Cannabis sativa is likely to affect the result of the election.

After that, each of the linked in members of the public got to ask one light-hearted question before the moderator ended the broadcast a few minutes over the scheduled 45. Even the President, it seems, does encores. The full broadcast is available from a number of places. This link is to CBS News' site.

As I see it, the situation in the USA regarding marijuana is a mess. Moves, in some states, to make cannabis available on medical grounds without any control over quality and strength, because production remains outside the law, are not the way forward. Simply leaving the issue in the ‘too difficult’ drawer and hoping it goes away is a complete failure to lead.