Marijuana Policy Project
Curved Papers

Obama to Maher: Marijuana Legalization Is No Panacea

During Pres. Barack Obama's first-ever appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher on Nov. 4, the host popped the pot legalization question. Here's the president's answer (cue to 7:20 in clip above):

"I have always believed that society wants to guard against any kind of substance abuse, that you treat it as a public health problem. I'm an ex-cigarette smoker… When I passed healthcare reform, I had my last cigarette… That's where I think we need to go with pot (and) alcohol.

'So I don't think that legalization is a panacea, but I think we're going to have to have a more serious conversation about how we are treating marijuana and our drug laws generally.

The folloing quote was cut from the Maher's TV interview with Obama (watch the clip here):

"The good news is that after this referenda, to some degree it's going to call the question. Because if in fact it passed in all these states, you'll now have a fifth of the country that's operating under one set of laws and four-fifths in another. The Justice Department, DEA, FBI, for them to try to straddle and figure out how they're supposed to enforce laws in some places and not in others, they're going to guard against transporting these drugs across state lines – you've got the entire Pacific Corridor where this is legal. That is not going to be tenable. It's not something that I think is going to happen overnight. I think their are some legitimate concerns that people have about how you draw lines on these issues, but it is indesputable that right now the biggest drug crisis we have is with opioids, many of which are legal and are ravaging entire communities all across the country. For us to re-sort how we think about these problems and not think of everything through the criminal justice lens, but also through the public health lens, I think is something that's going to need to happen."

Legalization is on the ballot in five more states – Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada – on Election Day.

Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.