Why I Hope Malia Obama Was Smoking Weed

The gossip site Radar Online is alleging that the first daughter, Malia Obama, was seen smoking weed at the Lollapalooza music festival on July 31. Ordinarily, a claim like that wouldn't reach mainstream news, but there appears to be a smoking gun, so to speak: video evidence of the 18-year-old smoking what looks like a roach. Radar quoted Jerrdin Selwyn, 18, who claims: "I caught Malia smoking pot and I have the pictures to prove it. You could smell the marijuana smoke." The Obama Administration has yet to comment on the video, and I hope they never do, unless it is to say that their daughter is now an adult, and that if she was smoking weed, it was in a city where it is now decriminalized.

I, for one, hope that she was smoking weed, and not cigarettes. Because while weed does have its own side effects to worry about, especially when it comes to still-developing teenage brains, the fact remains that cigarettes are far more dangerous — and I would argue smoking them is a far more destructive example to set.

Of course, poor Malia shouldn't have to set an example. It wasn't her choice to be placed in the role of first daughter, and her mother has spoken often of how her greatest fear when her husband took office was that she would be depriving her daughters any chance at a normal life. Perhaps thanks to that fear, the Obamas appear to have raised humble, intelligent, happy young women nonetheless. It certainly isn't fair that Malia should be slut-shamed for dancing like a normal teenager and sexual being at Lollapalooza, and it is no more justified that she should be "role-model shamed" for potentially smoking weed.

I hope her father would agree. Though he has so far refused to remove marijuana from the Schedule I drug list and opposes recreational legalization, President Obama has said that weed is less dangerous than alcohol. He has also been open about his past use of marijuana, saying, "I inhaled frequently. That was the point."

I too had a dad who was open with me about his past drug use — so open, in fact, that I never drank or did drugs in high school, in part just to rebel. But I remember a hike I took with him the summer before I went off to college, when I was also 18. I was going off to NYU, and he asked if he could "ask me a personal question," which was never good. "Have you ever smoked weed?" he asked me. "Not yet," I answered, blushing.

"OK, well, I want you to be safe and all that, but I do think you should try it sometime, just to experience it."

"OK, Dad."

Perhaps more in spite of his encouragement than because of it, I did start smoking weed that summer. I was ready to try it, and drinking had never appealed to me much (it still doesn't). By the time I went off to school, I'd smoked a handful of times, and was grateful to have it as an alternative when it turned out that drinking made me throw up nearly ever single time I tried it my freshman year.

Like Malia, I was an overachiever; a young woman who really just needed some time to figure out who she was, apart from her parents' and society's expectations. Marijuana was a crucial tool for me in that journey.

Some of my best memories of college were times when I was stoned, feeling creative, and connecting with friends. Sure, I watched TV and sometimes leaned on the drug more than I should have during anxious times, but by and large the drug was a productive one for me.

Like Malia, I was an overachiever; a young woman who really just needed some time to figure out who she was apart from her parents' and society's expectations. Marijuana was a crucial tool for me in that journey; it helped me see my own emotions and beliefs from a different angle, to question my own assumptions, and to become more comfortable in my skin. Weed helped me grow up and understand myself in a way drinking never did — and it continues to, when I'm using it mindfully.

That's why it's been important to me throughout my time working at Bustle to represent what I believe are a large but too-silent contingent of cannabis-enthusiasts: over-achieving, impressive young women. To be a fan of 420 is not just to sit on the couch and watch cartoons; it is, in my case, to brainstorm viral feature ideas, to learn more about my own sexuality, to create art, and talk about identity politics with my friends. It is an extension of my constant desire to understand myself and the world.

I am a writer, an editor, a mentor, the recipient of numerous prestigious investigative journalism awards, and not only did I help found the largest website for women, but I gave Bustle its very name. I also review sex toys, write about my pubic hair, challenge mono-normative relationship models, and smoke weed nearly every week. None of these facts about me should be viewed as contradictions. If anything, they just make me a more interesting role model.

Perhaps Malia will never smoke weed. Or, perhaps she will find it is one of many beneficial means of figuring out who she is, apart from others' expectations. If it's the latter, not only is it none of our business, but it would make her no less of a role model or impressive young woman with a bright future ahead of her. In fact, it might just make her more complex.