Obama, Between Two Potheads

CANNABIS CULTURE – During his come-from-way-behind historic presidental run in 2008, Our First Black President had in his corner none other than actor Kal Penn. Most known to CC‘s readers as Kumar from the wildly popular Harold and Kumar movies.

Penn famously put his acting career aside to do something for his country, which must mean it’s true what was alleged in a 1998 Salt Lake Education Foundation booklet: that among the “warning signs” of marijuana use parents must watch our for are “excessive preoccupation with social causes, race relations, environmental issues, etc.” (Shout out to NORML’s Paul Armentano, whose encyclopedic knowledge of research studies on came up with the key fact that enabled me to look this up on the ‘net.)

Penn even accepted a government post as an Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement after the election, but eventually went back to making bank on his public persona. Both he and Harold (John Cho) deny they ever smoked pot; it was up to Danneel Harris, the girl who turns Kumar on in the films, to have the cahonitas to admit she’s a toker. Ah, Ishtar lives — and will be back on 4/20.

Now, in order to reach young Americans so that they’ll see the wisdom of buying themselves health insurance for the cost of their cell phone bills, Obama has once more teamed up with a pothead icon, this time Zach Galifianakis. Most known to the general public from The Hangover movies, Zach is most famous among potheads for lighting up a doob and passing it around on Real Time with Bill Maher in support of 2010’s Proposition 19, to legalize pot in California.

The press loved the fact that Obama had agreed to an interview with Galifianakis’s faux, lame talk show host sitting Between Two Ferns on the Funny or Die network.

“Sorry I had to cancel a few times,” begins Galifianakis, “my mousepad broke last week, and then I had to get my great aunt some diabetes shoes….” The six-minute “interview” is side-splittglyly funny, with Galifianakis asking why the President has sent “Ambassador Rodman” to “North Ikea,” and suggesting he might make same-sex divorce illegal, “then see how badly they want it.” When Obama, who managed to maintain a straight face and his dignity throughout, brought up HealthCare.com, Zach mock-sighed, “OK, let’s get this out of the way: what did you come here to plug?”

The closest thing to a ganja joke came when Galifianakis joked that his birth certificate says he weighed 7 lbs., 800 oz. at birth (pot peddlers everywhere are doing the math). It’s too soon apparently for Barack to do any pot jokes, and you can’t blame him really: he’s got serious work to do. He seems to be sending out his erstwhile pick for Surgeon General, CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, for a second round of pot PR, “doubling down” on the benefits of marijuana.

And Obama did stoners a whole lot of good when he said he found marijuana less dangerous than alcohol in a recent New Yorker interview, the first president who didn’t wait until his exit interview (as Bill Clinton did) to consider the idea of legalization. Obama’s comments were prefaced by a trial balloon Clinton flew on the topic of late, about public attitudes changing.

Funny it’s called Funny or Die because many Americans, unless they find this interview funny enough to watch and take action, very well could die from a lack of health insurance.

But even so, unless it’s something like House of Cards or Scandal about how scandalous our government is, or something as believable as sci-fi, like Downton Abbey, people pretty much only want to watch shows about pot and pot smokers. The latest are Broad City and Getting Doug with High.

Ellen Komp is Deputy Director of California NORML and a regular contributor to Cannabis Culture. She manages the website VeryImportantPotheads.com and blogs at Tokin Woman.