Amid all of the bad turkey-pardoning jokes and high-waisted jeans, it’s easy to forget that President Barack Obama is a Cool Dad. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Obama reminded us that he can be pretty hip, saying he believed marijuana should be treated like alcohol and cigarettes — that is, as a legal but highly regulated substance. In classic Cool Dad fashion, his views are unexpectedly progressive — but still reliably and sedately responsible.
“Look, I’ve been very clear about my belief that we should try to discourage substance abuse. And I am not somebody who believes that legalization is a panacea,” he said in the interview, making his Dad-ness clear. But then he dropped in an unexpected bit of Cool: “But I do believe that treating this as a public-health issue, the same way we do with cigarettes or alcohol, is the much smarter way to deal with it.”
What makes Obama’s Cool Dad stance so different from that of America’s pending patriarch, Donald Trump, is his willingness to view substance abuse as a matter to be solved as a community rather than a target upon which we should wage war. Trump, by announcing he would appoint Jeff Sessions as the country’s next Attorney General, made it clear that the War on Drugs was a war he had every intention of continuing. Sessions, of course, is a man notorious for saying he was cool with the KKK “until he learned that they smoked marijuana” and telling the Senate that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
Obama’s views are in line with those of many of the world’s most vocal opponents of the War on Drugs, including former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, Sir Richard Branson, and Canadian President Justin Trudeau, who recently legalized prescription heroin for treating addicts to demonstrate that it’s much more effective to treat drug addiction, rather than condemn it. Marijuana use, of course, isn’t equivalent to heroin addiction, but Obama’s suggestion that all potentially harmful substances should be regulated (alcohol and cigarettes, after all, are two very acceptable poisons) rather than criminalized applies to both.
As the end of his term draws near, Obama has been increasingly vocal about his thoughts on drug use and the War on Drugs — occasionally even acting on them — as he did in June when he commuted the life sentences of 348 people, many of whom were serving time for drug-related crimes. While Obama has not outright advocated for federal marijuana legalization — something marijuana supporters have expressed their disappointment in — he has suggested that it wouldn’t be the worst idea. Spoken like a true cool dad.