Obama: Marijuana Legalization Is a Low Priority

In an interview with Vice, Pres. Obama is predictably pro-marijuana decriminalization but not so hot about legalizing it. He says pot should be "at the bottom" of important issues after "climate change, the economy, jobs, war and peace." However, Obama does have some interesting things to say about decrim and rescheduling.

Shane Smith conducts the interview (cue to 15-minute mark).

Smith: States are legalizing marijuana. It seems like an inevitability. For young people, if you legalized marijuana, it would be the biggest part of your legacy. What are your thoughts on that?

Obama: First of all, it shouldn't be young peoples' biggest priority. Let's put it in perspective: Young people, I understand this is important to you, but you should be thinking about climate change, the economy, jobs, war and peace. Maybe way at the bottom you should be thinking about marijuana.

'I separate out the issue of the criminalization of marijuana from encouraging its use.'

I think there is no doubt that our criminal justice system generally is so heavily skewed towards cracking down on non-violent drug offenders that it has not just had a terrible effect on many communities, particularly communities of color, rendering a lot of folks unemployable because they got felony records, disproportionate prison sentences, it costs a huge amount of money to states - and a lot of states are starting to figure that out - but what I'm encouraged by is you're starting to see not just liberal Democrats but also some very conservative Republicans recognize this doesn't make sense, including the Libertarian wings of the Republican party. They see the money and how costly it is to incarcerate. So we may actually be able to make some progress on the decriminalization side.

'At a certain point if enough states end up decriminalizing, Congress may then reschedule marijuana.'

But I always say to folks legalization or decriminalization is not a panacea. Do we feel the same way about meth? Do we feel the same way about coke? How about crack? How about heroin? There is a legitimate concern about the overall effects this has on society, particularly vulnerable parts of our society. Substance abuse, generally, legal and illegal, is a problem. Locking somebody up for 20 years is probably not the best strategy. That's something we have to rethink as a society as a while.

Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

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