Post-Obama America: Does Drug Legalization Look Possible?

“We have to make a choice in this country,” said a prominent cable news personality in 2009. “We have to either put people who are smoking marijuana behind bars, or we legalize it. But this little game we’re playing in the middle is not helping us, is not helping Mexico and is causing massive violence on our southern border… I think it’s about time we legalize marijuana.”

People might expect this sentiment from an MSNBC host, but this pro-legalization rant came from former FOX News host Glenn Beck. That’s right, it appears Glenn Beck and Kanye West finally agree on something, and if these opposing personalities can find common ground on cannabis, maybe America’s two political parties can as well. Legalization could become the first major bipartisan issue in a post-Obama America.

“The idea of marijuana as a gateway drug I don’t think is borne out by statistics. That’s like saying that everybody who is guilty of rape once masturbated” – William F. Buckley

Consider several of the key issues found in the official party platforms. The Republicans espouse state’s rights, spending cuts, civil liberties and limitations on government oversight. Prohibition, however, effectively promotes the following:

  • A denial of state sovereignty on cannabis issues in favor of federal regulation
  • Federal interference on medical decisions made between a doctor and patient
  • Excessive government spending on incarceration, law enforcement and the drug war
  • Restrictions on civil liberties involving personal use in the privacy of one’s home

The Democrats, meanwhile, prioritize social justice, racial equality, health care and employment issues. Prohibition also counters these priorities in several ways, including the following:

  • Prevents the natural production of new jobs in the cannabis industry
  • Creates employment hurdles via criminal records related to cannabis
  • Fosters social and racial injustice with discriminatory drug law enforcement
  • Limits legitimate health care options for serious and terminal conditions

In this age of hyper-partisanship, few issues exist in which aging hippies and left-leaning millennials can unite with rural conservatives and family-values suburbanites. On the issue of cannabis, however, the tide is turning. In ever-increasing numbers, individuals in both parties recognize the benefits of reform, the damage from prohibition and the dishonest propaganda in anti-cannabis campaigns.

The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank co-founded by Charles Koch, looked into the issue with the 2010 study The Budgetary Impact of Ending Drug Prohibition. The 54-page findings argued that ending cannabis prohibition would cut spending by $8.7 billion and increase tax revenue by the same amount. In other words, ending prohibition would cut spending, increase tax revenues and produce more jobs. If that is not an equitable balance for each party’s priorities, what is?

Stereotypes suggest that ending prohibition is a liberal cause, and polls do show that Democrats are twice as likely to support legalization than Republicans, but several conservatives are taking public stands. Former judge Andrew Napolitano said, “These are times that call for more freedom, rather than less” in offering his support for legalization, while right-wing power broker Grover Norquist (Americans for Tax Reform) aligned with Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) on a bill to allow legitimate dispensaries to deduct business expenses on their federal tax returns. Mama Grizzly herself, Sarah Palin, even told National Review in 2009 that “I’m not going to get in the way of a doctor prescribing something that he or she believes will help a cancer patient.”

In other words, ending prohibition would cut spending, increase tax revenues and produce more jobs. If that is not an equitable balance for each party’s priorities, what is?

Speaking of National Review, William F. Buckley founded the seminal conservative magazine 60 years ago. During an interview with the Yale Free Press in 2001, Buckley said, “The idea of marijuana as a gateway drug I don’t think is borne out by statistics. That’s like saying that everybody who is guilty of rape once masturbated.”

Anti-prohibition conservatives like Buckley were more common in the 1970s, and in 1972, National Review ran the headline “The Time Has Come: Abolish the Pot Laws.” The War on Drugs propaganda machine helped shift the needle in prohibition’s favor, but the political pendulum appears to be swinging back. A Pew Research survey last year found that 63% of Republican millennials support cannabis legalization.

The religious right might still need more convincing, and some conservatives believe the cultural associations with cannabis justify its prohibition even if science and sociology do not. At the same time, yellow-bellied Democrats who privately support legalization often avoid public support because focus-group data suggests they shouldn’t. Libertarians, economic conservatives and conscience-driven liberals currently lead the political charge, and with the change in tides becoming ever-more clear, the number of legalization supporters should continue to swell.

Last March, bipartisanship took a major step forward when Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and presidential candidate Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act. The proposed bill would end federal prohibition, expand medical research, change the controlled substance schedule and reclassify certain CBD strains for expanded use. A few weeks later, Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Don Young (R-AK) led a bipartisan effort in the House introducing a similar bill to restrict prohibition and increase access.

Similarly, Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Steve Daines (R-MT) helped make history last month with their Veterans Equal Access Amendment. The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee voted (18 to 12) in favor of the bipartisan bill, which allows Veterans Administration (VA) doctors to recommend medical marijuana (MMJ) for patients in states that legalized MMJ use. The historic vote marked the first time any Senate body approved legislation that increased access to cannabis.

How far will these legislative bills go? Time will tell, but unlike the hyper-partisan battles under Obama, pro-cannabis legislation will likely pass by bringing the political parties together rather than pushing them further apart.

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Witnessing a Drug Smuggle & Other Asian Bus Blunders

Our travel time from Siem Reap, Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, was posted at twelve hours. For anyone who has bumped down National Highway 6, the ditch-filled, partially dirt highway connecting Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, you know this travel time is simply impossible. By day, it takes at least seven hours to get to Phnom Penh, and it definitely would take more than four additional hours to get to Vietnam. As it was my friend’s first time bussing around Southeast Asia, I told her to prepare for a fourteen-hour ride.

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What the bus ride might have felt like

Mental preparation is a key part of sitting on a bus for endless hours in Asia. Inevitably everyone loses touch with sanity at some point, but by expecting to be on the bus for an extended time staves off the delirium for at least a short while.

So down Road 6 we jostled until we pulled in to the Phnom Penh bus station. We had approximately fifteen minutes to switch buses for the remainder of the journey, so we grabbed our bags, ran to the bathroom, bought some creepy fried chicken, and tried to get on the next bus. However, they had taken our tickets in Siem Reap and not given them back. This meant that we didn’t actually have tickets for the bus we were trying to get on, even though we had paid for them. Luckily they called the Siem Reap bus station and sorted this out.

We were given the last two seats in the back row of the bus. They didn’t recline, like all of the other seats did, nor did they have footrests. But we were heading to Vietnam, we had air-con, and at least we weren’t in the literal lawn chairs they pulled out for the next two people boarding the bus.

We stopped too many times for us to keep track of, and, by the time we had crossed the boarder (where they let Aly retrieve my passport for me—sketch), we just wanted to get to Ho Chi Minh. We were nearing hour fourteen, certainly nowhere near the city, and rapidly sinking into a restless craze. But we figured that we probably wouldn’t be stopping anymore—next stop, Ho Chi Minh! Thank god.

But just minutes after loading back onto the bus on the Vietnam side of the boarder, we stopped again.

Jesus Christ we both let out exasperated sighs, Why the fu*k are we stopping again?! We literally just stopped. The bus attendant ushered everyone off the bus for a “tea break.”

In some declining mental state between fed up, pissed off, and delirious, we told the attendant we would not be getting off the bus. We stayed in the back row with the two Indonesian ladies who had suffered through this entire journey with us.

We watched as he began unloading very suspicious brown packages from the bottom of the bus.

The lights in the bus went out, and we saw the form of the bus attendant approaching us. Somewhere a few feet in front of us, he pulled up a compartment in the floor and descended into it. This was not the first bout of strange behavior we had witnessed from this bus attendant; he had nearly forced us to abandon our phones at customs in order to get us back on the bus, physically ushering us along as we scrambled to grab all our cords.

We watched as he began unloading very suspicious brown packages from the bottom of the bus. Since we were in the last row of seats, only us and our Indonesian friends could see the packages as he lined them up next to the nearest window.

robert downey jr animated GIF

This was too much for us to handle in our current state. The two of us burst out laughing, incredulously shining our phone lights around and taking pictures.

Soon after he emerged from the floor, he came over to the giggling pair of us, grabbed my arm and started shrieking “DELETE DELETE DELETE!!!” reaching for my phone.

Trying to push him away with one hand, I quickly deleted the pictures off my phone and irritatedly showed him they were gone. And for the rest of the ride, Aly and I exchanged theories about why he had reacted so strangely. The answer we came up with was that our bus was involved in some drug smuggling scheme. We agreed to watch the packages, and decided that if we made a random stop and he passed them out the window to someone then it was definitely a drug drop.

This is exactly what happened. Just inside Ho Chi Minh, around hour sixteen of this seemingly endless journey, the bus pulled over to the side of the road, all the lights went on, but the door did not open. The bus attendant handed the three brown parcels out the window to a man on a motorbike below. The drop was complete, the lights turned off, and we continued on our way.

It’s Way Too Easy to Get Drugs in Asia

Even though they’re super illegal, it’s no secret that it’s incredibly easy to get drugs, or things passed off as drugs, in Southeast Asia. That’s because the police presence is virtually nonexistent.


Ask any tuktuk driver on the street for anything he will either sell it himself or take you to a friend who does. Actually, you don’t even have to ask them for drugs, they will probably just approach you themselves. Just walking down the street, I have been offered everything: MDMA, cocaine, LSD, weed, shrooms, and opium. I was literally offered opium the first night I was in Siem Reap. And I swear I don’t look like some drug lord backpacker, just a white girl roaming around. But tuktuk drivers will offer this wide array of substances to any tourist walking by.

Happy pizza is also a tourist favorite, and there are numerous stores that sell happy pizza and happy shakes in most cities. And that shit is strong. In general, weed is pretty easy to come by around these parts, but with most other drugs I would be wary. At least with weed you can tell what it is by looking at it or smelling it. The happy pizza places all sell it and their stash is pretty reliable, and some bars will sell pre-rolled joints or spliffs, as well as space cakes.

A friend of mine bought coke recently from a tuktuk driver, which, simply put, definitely was not coke. The sus-white substance we surmised was probably a random powder you can buy at the pharmacy, stuff in an appropriately sketchy looking dime bag and offered up as coke. It had no effect. Same friend was offered shrooms when we got into a tuktuk, and they gave him a test one. He said that it was just a mushroom you could probably buy at the local market.

On the other hand, I know people who have had insane nights on LSD or MDMA they bought off tuktuk drivers, and who have been whisked off into cities’ secret opium dens.

The shroom shakes in Bali on the Gili islands are a totally different story.


Wandering around the pedestrian island my friend and I talked about splitting one; we agreed we wouldn’t seek out the shakes, but if they came to us we wouldn’t say no. We weren’t fiends.

Basically the first deli we walked into had a sign next to the register “Happy magic mushroom shake send you 2D moon.” Guess we didn’t have to look very hard.

We drank the shroom shakes around midnight, and after we decided to go to a nearby bar, watch the world cup, and wait to see what would happen. We didn’t get any visual off the shakes, which made us think we didn’t feel anything at all. It actually wasn’t until we reflected on our night the next morning that we realized how weird we had been.

After the shake, we left our other two friends with these Aussie guys we’d met earlier that day- we thought we were perfect wingmen. We created a reality for them in our heads, where they went back to the boys’ hostel and had a romantic night together; we even texted the two of them when we got back to our hostel around 5AM telling them to hit us up in the morning, We kept coming back to how excited we were that they were hooking up, and praised each other for our excellent implementation skills.

The two of us wandered around the island thinking we were being totally normal. Actually we were being incredibly weird and antisocial. I don’t think we talked to anyone but each other. We would sit in bars without drinks and talk, get up and wander on. We bought a joint from someone on the beach, but other than that our only human contact was with the security guards at a hostel that had a pool. Still, we didn’t realize this at the time, and didn’t think we felt anything because of that.

It was probably around 3:30 or 4 in the morning, when passed the hostel we had originally tried to stay at, which had a swim up bar in the pool. There was a light on near the path by the pool area, but otherwise it was completely dark. It was Ramadan, so most things were shutting around midnight or 1AM since many would wake up early to eat before the sun rose. We must’ve been some of the only people awake on the island.

We wandered up to the security guards and asked—no, begged them to let us dangle our feet in the pool. No we weren’t staying there. No we weren’t going in the pool, we just wanted to put our feet in. We promised we wouldn’t jump in. We promised to only stay five minutes. Seriously, I think we went back and forth with them for like ten minutes before we convinced them to let us in. And then we sat, kicking our feet back and forth in the warm blue pool water, looking up at the stars and chatting, for nearly an hour.


When we got back to our hostel we sat on the couches outside our bunkroom until we were about to fall asleep. Once again, we praised each other on successfully setting up our friends. It was around this time that we realized that, as much as we “weren’t really feeling anything,” it was 5AM, and we had been super weird to pretty much everyone all night.

We awoke the next morning to find our friends, who we thought were with the Aus guys, in our bunkroom. They read our texts to us and laughed—what were we talking about? And did we really stay up until 5AM? What were we doing? This caused us to reflect on our night, and recounting what we had done made it obvious how weird we were being. We had just been in our own shroomy world, but didn’t realize it.

How Not To Smell Like What You Just Smoked

One of my best friends in high school was a drug dealer. And not just your average suburban drug dealer that sold dime bags to freshmen at the local skate park (well of course he did that). He was the whole package: stealthy scales, baggies with purple patterns, a legitimate med card, strain variations, hiding spots, master blunt roller, the works. So I picked up a few tips just being around him.

When you finish smoking a joint or a cigarette you become oblivious to your own odor, but the problem is, everybody else can smell you. Here’s how not to smell like what you just smoked.


The best way to not smell like it is to change your shirt entirely. If you’re wearing a coat or a sweatshirt, take it off before you smoke. When your done, air out your shirt for a minute and then put back on the coat or sweatshirt.


Always have a packet of gum with you; you should have one even when you’re not smoking. What if you make out with someone and they stop because your mouth smells like a hot, sweaty barn (yeah, imagine that visual for a second). For some, it could be a huge turnoff and a failed attempt at a score.


If you’ve ever smoked a cigarette or a hit a joint, you know your fingers get coated in a funky smell. It’s horrible when your next activity is putting food in your mouth. Go in the bathroom and lather toothpaste on the fronts and backs of your fingers, just a light coat will do. Works like a charm. No, your hands will not smell minty fresh; it will neutralize the smell.

Dr. Green Thumb, more like Dr. Crest Thumb….just kidding.

Peel and Eat and Orange

The citrus is a potent smell. It’s extremely overbearing, but in a really good way. Really dig your fingers into the rind and get it all over you. Bathe in it. People love the smell of an orange and it gets the job done.

The Ultimate Cover

And lastly, if you just smoked a joint and can’t do any of the above, and you need to get rid of the weed smell. Spark up a cigarette. They will cover up just about anything, and people might even avoid you. In that case, perfect. Who wants to talk to anybody when they’re stoned?

Whatever you do,  just don’t be a burn after you burn, got it Bernie?

This guy know what the fu*k is up.