President Obama on Thursday said he expects more states to experiment with marijuana legalization.
In an interview conducted by a handful of YouTube stars, Obama discussed the fragmented policy surrounding the plant, which is legal in Colorado and Washington and regulated differently state by state.
Note: To hear Obama’s comments on marijuana in the above video, check in at the 11-minute mark.
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“What you’re seeing now is Colorado, Washington through state referenda, they’re experimenting with legal marijuana,” Obama said in response to a question posed by Hank Green, who with his brother runs a YouTube channel with nearly 2.5 million subscribers.
“The position of my administration has been that we still have federal laws that classify marijuana as an illegal substance, but we’re not going to spend a lot of resources trying to turn back decisions that have been made at the state level on this issue,” Obama said. “My suspicion is that you’re gonna see other states start looking at this.”
The president went on to discuss a number of issues related to federal application of drug policy. He said that he will continue to have his administration review treatment of nonviolent drug offenders, and said drug policy with regard to marijuana should be treated more as a public health issue than a criminal one. He also voiced concern with the racially unequal application of marijuana laws and noted bipartisan support on the issue.
Here is the rest of what he had to say on the issue:
What I am doing at the federal level is asking my Department of Justice just to examine generally how we are treating nonviolent drug offenders.
Because I think you’re right, what we have done is instead of focusing on treatment, the same way we focused say with tobacco or drunk driving or other problems where we treat it as a public health problem, we’ve treated this exclusively as a criminal problem. And I think that it’s been counterproductive and it’s been devastating in a lot of minority communities. It presents the possibility at least of unequal application of the law and that has to be changed.
Now the good news is that we’re starting to get some interest from Republicans as well as Democrats in reforming the criminal justice system. We’ve been able to initiate some changes administratively and last year you had the first time in 40 years where the crime rate and the incarceration rate went down at the same time. I hope we can continue with those trends because they’re just a smarter way of dealing with these issues.