Yet for all that, Obama has governed not merely as a standard-issue White House drug warrior but as a particularly hard-headed and hard-hearted one. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana and polls routinely show 70 percent to 80 percent of Americans support the stuff, but the Obama administration has actually outpaced the Bush administration when it comes to dispensary raids. As my Reason colleague Mike Riggs has reported, the Obama administration has also continued or expanded programs that funnel billions of dollars to oppressive drug-war operations in Asia and Mexico (where the results have included “multiple reports of forced disappearances by the army, navy, and police.”)

In several public settings, including a 2009 online town hall, Obama literally laughed off questions of marijuana legalization before emphatically stating that taxing and regulating weed was out of the question: “The answer is no, I don’t think that is a good strategy to grow the economy.” The president’s drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, continues to insist that “legalization is not in the president’s vocabulary.”…

While Obama’s drug czar keeps announcing that the “war on drugs” is over, the declaration has been purely rhetorical. Even as the administration claims its drug policy is guided by hard science and not hot emotions or longstanding prejudice, it continues to insist, for example, that marijuana deserves its Schedule I rating under the Controlled Substances Act. That means that marijuana “has no currently accepted medical use in treatment” and a “high potential for abuse,” just like a wide variety of opioids and LSD.