Barack Obama (Wikimedia Commons)
Barack Obama (Wikimedia Commons)

This weekend, the genteel folks at the New Yorker published a powerhouse 17,000 word profile on President Obama, and in the days since it has rocketed around the political corners of the internet. But let’s get real: You’ve probably neglected it in favor of more digestible Buzzfeed lists and Youtube videos. Never fear – the Politic Blog has you covered with everything you need to know.

The piece marathons through a range of topics, including President Obama’s second term priorities (vast), his relations with Members of Congress (frosty), Malia Obama’s favorite television show (Girls), Michelle Obama’s memoir (on the way), and much more.

The most newsworthy revelation, however, came around halfway through the piece when the conversation shifted from one issue about which public opinion is rapidly changing, gay marriage, to another: marijuana.

On weed, Obama said, “I view it as a bad habit and a vice…I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.” Cue the media frenzy.

Obama’s interview was by no means a full-throated call for Americans to find a friendly neighborhood dealer and light up. “It’s not something I encourage, and I’ve told my daughters I think it’s a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy,” he went on to say.

But these statements do beg the question: if even the President admits that marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol, why should its use be totally prohibited? Will the Drug Enforcement Agency and state law enforcement organizations, with federal imprimatur, continue to prosecute scores of Americans for using a substance whose devotees have included the likes of Oprah, Clarence Thomas, Bill Clinton, John Kerry, George W. Bush, Michael Bloomberg, and Obama himself?

There are multiple pressures contributing to Obama’s evolving politics on marijuana use. First, Colorado and Washington have already legalized marijuana. Many other states have various laws regarding decriminalization and medicinal marijuana. Second, as Obama stated in the New Yorker piece, there is long simmering outrage over disparities in marijuana related arrests. Minorities and the poor are much more likely to prosecuted for weed. How long will it be until those manifold pressures demand full-scale legalization?

To be sure, only time will tell, and it doesn’t look like legalizing marijuana is at the top of President Obama’s second term to-do list. But his words this week set a decidedly new tone from the White House.

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