President Obama could one day come out in support of legalizing marijuana. PHOTO: Reuters
President Obama will probably support medical marijuana one day, and perhaps even the full legalization of marijuana. Obama himself was once a heavy smoker and he turned out alright, but as President, Obama has been very cautious with causes of the left wing. He has preferred to position himself as a centrist on issues such as gay rights, marijuana and health care.
On Wednesday, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said that President Obama “does not at this point advocate a change in [marijuana] law.” The “at this point,” turned a few heads, but unless there is something imminent, it’s unlikely that Obama gathered his spokespeople together to say, “Hey, I’m going to come out for medical marijuana in a year or two, but don’t tell anyone right now, but it's okay to vaguely hint at it.”
However, Obama is aware of the shifting public opinion on marijuana—multiple polls have found a majority of Americans support the idea that marijuana be legalized, taxed and regulated like alcohol—and this viewpoint may mirror the President’s personal beliefs.
So, when will Obama evolve on marijuana? Here are the 5 most likely scenarios:
1) Obama Bong Rips Apart The Status Quo: support for full legalization of marijuana while he is still President.
This is included for completeness sake. Obama is probably far too cautious and worried about painting Democrats into a corner for the 2016 race to endorse full legalization. Get back to me when those poll numbers climb up to 60% for marijuana legalization.
2) Obama Lets Colorado and Washington Pass the J: support for states that have legalized marijuana.
This could actually happen while Obama is still President. He could frame it as a states’ rights issue, combined with an acknowledgment of changing times and a failed War on Drugs. It’s unlikely that anything involving Congress could make it into law, but Obama could act within his administration to remove marijuana from the list of Schedule I drugs. The fact that Obama has not come out against Colorado and Washington already indicates that this may happen while he is in office.
3) Obama Says You Can Hit The Pipe With A Doctor’s Note: support only for medical marijuana
It seems inevitable, given that 20 states have legalized medical marijuana, and that 77% of the public supports medical marijuana, that Obama will one day support medical marijuana. It’s the sort of politically dicey thing that Obama always goes into reluctantly, but it would inject some life into the Democratic party on an issue that would make Republicans seem old and out of touch with what the country wants. Expect that chess move in 2015.
4) Obama Rolls One With The Pages Of His Post-Presidency Book: supports some of the above after his presidency.
Like many politicians who start speaking truth to power when they are no longer in power, Obama might wait until someone else has his job before the real opinions come out. Obama might come out for marijuana legalization in sentence three of paragraph nine of chapter four of I Was President And You Weren’t, available on your Kindle in 2018.
5) Obama Just Says No
It is possible that Obama and his spokespeople simply spend the next three years deflecting these questions. Maybe he really does think marijuana should remain illegal for medical purposes or otherwise, or he just doesn’t feel like answering questions about a sticky topic that he doesn’t see much political upside in. It’s possible, but given Obama’s previous statements, gradual leftward shift, marijuana’s ever-increasing support, this is not the most likely option. My money is on options 2 or 3.