Should marijuana be legal? President Barack Obama has frequently come close to saying “yes,” without ever quite saying it. His administration has not been as focused on Ronald Reagan’s “War on Drugs” as previous ones, and he’s taken a hands-off approach to states that have legalized pot.
Unlike Bill Clinton, who famously said he’d smoked pot but “didn’t inhale,” the president told a group of magazine editors back in 2006 that of course he inhaled.
‘When I was a kid, I inhaled. That was the point.”
Barack Obama finally went there in an “exit interview” with Rolling Stone, which hit the newsstands on Tuesday. When Jan Wenner asked how he felt about the election results, he admitted he feels disappointed but feels he “can say without any equivocation that the country is a lot better off” than when he won the White House back in 2008. But he warned that his achievements and those of Democrats before him are under threat.
‘I don’t want to sugarcoat it. There are consequences to elections. It means that the next Supreme Court justice is going to be somebody who doesn’t reflect my understanding of the Constitution.’
The conversation then moved on to Barack Obama’s views on whether or not marijuana should be legal. First, he explained that regardless of what he thinks, most of us at least want marijuana decriminalized.
‘If you survey the American people, including Trump voters, they’re in favor of a higher minimum wage. They’re in favor, in large numbers, of decriminalizing marijuana.’
Jan Wenner declared the “War on Drugs” a “colossal failure” and asked why marijuana’s an issue when the entire West Coast has already made it legal. He then asked if Barack Obama thinks we should make it a Schedule I drug like cigarettes and alcohol. He answered that he doesn’t think legalizing pot will solve all our problems when it comes to drugs.
‘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.’
But he does strongly believe we should treat marijuana as a public health issue, not as a crime. However, it’s up to Congress or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to decriminalize pot, he can’t do it alone. Although he has the power to do it, reclassifying a drug is not an easy process.
‘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. Typically how these classifications are changed are not done by presidential edict but are done either legislatively or through the DEA. As you might imagine, the DEA, whose job it is historically to enforce drug laws, is not always going to be on the cutting edge about these issues.’
No wonder Barack Obama seemed stern, but not too upset, when his daughter Malia got caught smoking pot this summer.
— Kate Bennett (@KateBennett_DC) August 11, 2016
Watch: Barack Obama talks with CNN about marijuana in 2014.
Featured image: NurPhoto via Getty Images.