As the sun sets today on President Obama’s two terms in the White House and dawns on incoming President Trump’s first, the “legacy” pieces have already started flowing. Most of them are, of course, glowing, noting his transformational moves in many areas, like LGBT protections and healthcare. But on criminal justice and civil liberties issues where he had the chance to be equally radical, he’s been at best a nudge and at worst a reactionary.
Barack Obama, leader of the “Choom Gang” of potheads in high school, could have literally ended the War on Drugs, at least federally. He could have been the example to show that drug use in and of itself is harmless for the vast majority of people, especially marijuana. Drug abuse is a scourge to be treated as a health care issue, but not moderate recreational use, and certainly not with a federal paramilitary war costing billions every year and incarcerating hundreds of thousands of men and women.
Although not directly in control of it, the president can request that the various departments with relevant oversight change the classification of marijuana and other drugs. As political appointees, the heads of those departments answer to the president and can be replaced by more ameanable yet still qualified candidates if they don’t perform to his satisfaction.