Obama Says We Should Treat Weed the Same as Booze and Cigarettes

The president says weed should be treated as a "public health issue."

Not Available Lead
Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

Not Available Lead

President Obama, who is the only president to ever openly admit to inhaling weed, said in a new Rolling Stone interview that he thinks marijuana should be treated the same as alcohol or cigarettes. The president has previously spoken against the criminalization of marijuana, but said his work on the issue is just about done as the final days of his presidency wind down. 

Asked why the U.S. continues to fight the racist and failed war on drugs, Obama said that weed should be treated as a "public health issue" on par with tobacco and booze:

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 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.

The president then acknowledged that he's "very much in lame-duck status" as president, but "will have the opportunity as a private citizen to describe where I think we need to go." 

Noting that much of the country has already legalized weed (for recreational purposes, medicinal, or both) Obama told Rolling Stone that "it is untenable over the long term for the Justice Department or the DEA to be enforcing a patchwork of laws, where something that's legal in one state could get you a 20-year prison sentence in another."  

The president also said that he thinks it's possible for federal marijuana reform to go the same route as same-sex marriage. "There's something to this whole states-being-laboratories-of-democracy and an evolutionary approach," Obama said. "You now have about a fifth of the country where this is legal."

Obama has commuted over 1,000 prison sentences for inmates convicted of non-violent drug crimes during his presidency, and has generally taken a firm public stance against the war on drugs. 

Latest in Life