Should Barack Obama Legalize Marijuana?

Writing in The New Yorker, Hendrik Hertzberg profiles the history of marijuana and Barack Obama, and why the President should move to legalize marijuana:

For a start, he could arrange for the Justice Department to end the absurd classification of marijuana as a supremely dangerous Schedule I drug, like heroin. And he shouldn’t just knock it down to Schedule II, cheek by jowl with cocaine. Better to demote it to Schedule IV, where it would have Xanax and Ambien for company, or clear down to Schedule V, reserved for cough medicine. Better still, take it off the “schedule” altogether. If alcohol isn’t on there, marijuana shouldn’t be, either.

Second, he could make it clear—to the public, to the Justice Department, to the D.E.A.—that his policy is to avoid making life unnecessarily difficult for the eighteen states (plus D.C.) that allow marijuana use for medical purposes, for the two states that have made its recreational use permissible under state law (including Colorado; see Ryan Lizza’s piece on John Hickenlooper, the governor, in this week’s issue), for the dozen or so states and hundreds of localities that have decriminalized possession of small amounts, and, overall, for peaceful, otherwise inoffending marijuana smokers. To date, the Obama Administration’s signals in these areas have been confusing and its actions only slightly better (some would say slightly worse) than its predecessors’.

Third, but by no means last, he could change the name of the Office of National Drug Control Policy—a.k.a. the White House “drug czar”—to the Office of National Harm Reduction Drug Policy, and tell it to come up with something halfway as reasonable as the report of the Nixon-appointed Shafer commission, which, in 1972, when Obama was in sixth grade, recommended making marijuana legal.

Obama is a busy man. He doesn’t have time to read, let alone encode, everything that appears over his robo-signature. But he really ought to feel a smidgen of shame that the government he heads treats people who do exactly what he used to do, and now casually jokes about, as criminals.

I’m so distant from this conversation that I had no idea what “buzzfeed” was before reading the article.

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