The hometown paper in the City of (burning) Angels claims that "Cannabis is moving into the mainstream, with fashion, films, TV and politicians acknowledging it's here to stay." Some of the anecdotal data:

In June, an estimated 25,000 people attended the inaugural THC Expo hemp and art show in downtown Los Angeles, an event that pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into the local economy -- including a $22,400 payment directly to the city of Los Angeles for use of its convention center. [...]

Earlier this year, Season 5 of Showtime's "Weeds" kicked off with promotional materials plastered on bus shelters, buses and billboards throughout the city. Last year, just across from the tourist-packed Farmers Market at 3rd Street and Fairfax Avenue, a "Pineapple Express" billboard belched faux pot smoke into the air. Even the '70s slacker-stoner comedy duo Cheech and Chong are back. After recently concluding an international tour, they say they are working on another movie, voicing an animated version of themselves and even batting around the idea of staging a Cheech and Chong Broadway musical. [...]

At fashion-insider parties, joints are passed nearly as freely as hors d'oeuvres. Traces of the acrid smoke waft from restaurant patios, car windows and passing pedestrians on the city streets -- in broad daylight. Even the art of name-dropping in casual conversation -- once limited to celebrity sightings and designer shoe purchases -- now includes the occasional boast of recently discovered weed strains such as "Strawberry Cough" and "Purple Kush." [...]

Drug references in popular music have multiplied like, well, weeds in the last three decades. Marijuana's presence on TV and in the movies has moved from the harbinger of bad things including murderous rage ("Reefer Madness" in 1936) to full-scale hauntings ("Poltergeist" in 1982) and burger runs gone awry ("Harold & Kumar go to White Castle" in 2001) to being just another fixture in the pop-culture firmament. Cannabis crops up on shows such as "Entourage," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "True Blood" and "Desperate Housewives," and even on animated shows such as "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy." [...]

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) has spoken out about decreasing penalties for possession and protecting medical marijuana users. Earlier this year, Glenn Beck of Fox News announced on the air: "Look, I'm a libertarian. You want to legalize marijuana; you want to legalize drugs -- that's fine."

David Bienenstock, senior editor of New York-based marijuana magazine High Times and author of "The Official High Times Pot Smoker's Handbook," said: "Whether you're with the press or a politician, it's no longer a third rail. In the past it could have cost you your job. Now people are at least able to have those conversations."

Why are people coming out of the pot closet, to a level maybe not seen since the 1970s (pictured)? The Times ignores the practical evidence in front of them–the hundreds of medical marijuana clinice operating in Los Angeles alone, after California became among the trailblazers to legalize therapeutic pot–and instead looks at the commander in chief:

Some people point to the Obama administration as the biggest game-changer. "It was when [former President George W. Bush] and his boys were run out of office, that made the biggest difference," Chong said by phone near the end of the "Light Up America and Canada Tour" that reunited him with Cheech Marin.

[THC Expo co-founder Brian] Roberts cited the election as the tipping point as well. "The whole show teetered on who won the election," he said. "If McCain had won, I'd have never have put up my money. But Americans are no longer living in fear."

Jacob Sullum wrote about how the Chong persecution and related paraphernalia busts crack down on free speech here. I analogized Obama to the Mikhail Gorbachev of pot liberalization in June.