American and German Youtube users are most interested in asking their respective heads of government about the legalization of marijuana. This seems to be another indication that US and German social media users think much more alike than the political elites do. I am disappointed that more important questions are much less popular.
Last week, Chancellor Merkel responded on the government's Youtube channel to ten questions from citizens. She responded negatively to this questions about the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana which had received the most votes on Youtube:
Wie stehen Sie zur Forderung, den bestehenden Schwarzmarkt für Cannabis durch einen regulierten Markt mit Jugend- und Verbraucherschutz (Kontrolle von Qualität und THC-Gehalt) zu ersetzen und mehr Suchtprävention über Cannabissteuern zu finanzieren?
For Merkel it was the first Youtube Q&A, while President Obama has been conducting three YouTube question-and-answer sessions already. According to CBS News, the session in January 2011 was "as always" dominated by marijuana:
More than 193,000 people have submitted questions for the president via the video website or cast votes, rating the questions positively or negatively. The Huffington Post reports that of the first 200 highest-rated questions, 198 have to do with drug policy. The top-rated question comes from a retired police officer with the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition:
"The so-called war on drugs has been waged for 40 years at a cost of a trillion dollars and thousands of lives, with nothing to show for it but increased supplies of cheaper drugs and a dramatic increase in violence associated with the underworld drug market," the officer says in his video. "Do you think there will or should come a time to discuss the possibility of legalization, regulation and control of all drugs, thereby doing away with the violent criminal market as well as a major source of funding for international terrorism?"
When marijuana questions dominated his online "town hall" in 2009, Mr. Obama did take the time to answer one of the questions, stating that he opposes marijuana legalization, though he took a dismissive tone. "I don't know what this says about the online audience," he joked, referring to the popularity of the question. In 2010, he ignored the issue.
"Legalize and Regulate Marijuana in a Manner Similar to Alcohol" was also a very popular online petition on the new White House platform "We the People".
Nice too see some transatlantic unity for a change. The majority of US and German citizens participating in these Q&A have this issue on top of their agenda. Besides, both Chancellor Merkel and President Obama agree that marijuana should not be legalized.
Usually pundits blame governments for not making full use of social media, but I think wide parts of the broader population are not yet ready to use these opportunities governments provide. That's disappointing.