Barack Obama

Malia Obama Allegedly Smoking Pot Isn't a Big Deal, President Obama's Foot-Dragging on Marijuana Reform Is

Misdemeanor drug convictions can still ruin young people's present and cripple their future.


Malia Obama turns 18
Aude Guerrucci/CNP/ADMedia/Newscom

Malia Obama, an 18-year-old adult woman who will be headed to Harvard University in a year, attended the Lollapalooza music festival in her hometown of Chicago last week. While there, she appears to have taken at least a single drag off of a cigarette containing substances of unknown provenance, according to EXCLUSIVE video obtained by RadarOnline.

Was it a marijuana joint? Or was she pulling off a tobacco cigarette in a way that sort of unnecessarily makes it look like a joint the way her father, the president, claims he was in doing in this famous photo from his early college/post-"Choom Gang" days?

The correct answer is "who really cares?" especially when even conservatives don't seem all that morally outraged at the possibility of the elder First Daughter engaging in some harmless recreational drug use at a summer concert.

The right's reaction was mostly limited to talk show and social media grousing about how differently the coverage of Malia's tug on a smoke was compared to the coverage of George W. Bush's twin daughters — Barbara and Jenna — getting busted in 2001 for using fake I.D.s to buy a few margaritas at a Tex-Mex restaurant at age 19.

Perhaps the only teachable moment to be gleaned from the Malia mystery cigarette is that we still live in a country where marijuana is classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule I substance, which among other things makes it a federal crime in most cases to grow, consume, possess, or ingest — even in states which have voted to allow medical marijuana or recreational marijuana use.

To its credit, the Obama administration has dialed back its earlier massive crackdowns on medical marijuana dispensaries and has shown little interest in interfering with states that allow for recreational use. But it remains disappointing that President Obama — who has written extensively about his own drug experimentation yet was able to attend elite universities and ascend to the highest ladder of public office only by the grace of not being arrested for a drug crime as a young man — continues to do nothing to end the immoral policy of marijuana prohibition.

In 2009, President Obama laughed off a question at an online Town Hall meeting asking whether he would support taxing and regulating marijuana the way we do with alcohol. Yet in 2014, Obama told the New Yorker's David Remmick:

As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol…" (emphasis added)

Obama can't legalize marijuana on a federal basis himself, Congress must do that. But the president has also tried to punt the issue of reclassifying marijuana to Congress, which he doesn't need to do. According to the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, the attorney general is empowered to "remove any drug or other substance from the schedules if he finds that the drug or other substance does not meet the requirements for inclusion in any schedule."

The attorney general works for the president. The president could make this happen if he wanted to, and while it wouldn't un-complicate the lives of so many young people who have already been denied federal student loans or jobs or housing because of misdemeanor drug convictions, rescheduling is an important step on the road to the decriminalization of marijuana.

For now, the president should be happy that his daughter — if she indeed was enjoying some totally "normal" soft drug experimentation — wasn't arrested at Lollapalooza. For a "normal" young person, such a stain on one's criminal record is just the kind of thing that could put something like an early admission invitation to attend Harvard at risk.