In an interview with Rolling Stone, President Obama has acknowledged that marijuana should be legalized and regulated like alcohol and tobacco.
Better late than never.
The president told publisher Jann Wenner that “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.”
Many have wondered why Obama never rescheduled marijuana. Based on a misunderstanding of the federal Controlled Substances Act, many believed he could remove marijuana from Schedule I by way of an executive order.
In the interview, the president explained: “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.”
Obama won’t reveal what he will do in respect to drug policy when he becomes a private citizen. However, he described the current conflict between state and federal law as “untenable over the long term” because it is nearly impossible for the Justice Department or the DEA “to be enforcing a patchwork of laws,” where the sanctions for marijuana sales vary so widely from state to state.
“This is a debate that is now ripe,” he continued. “There’s something to this whole states-being-laboratories-of-democracy and an evolutionary approach. You now have about a fifth of the country where [marijuana] is legal.”
The president’s comments represent a major milestone in the history of marijuana law reform—this is the first time a sitting president has endorsed marijuana’s legalization. More important, his comments are likely to have a profound effect on Democrats holding and running for political office around the country.
President Obama is the most popular Democratic politician in the America. One of the reasons Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election was her inability to turn out voters who had supported Obama in 2008 and 2010.
As the Democratic Party looks for ways to reassemble the Obama coalition, they should acknowledge and embrace the president’s latest position on marijuana legalization.
Previously in Pot Matters: Trump’s Reactionary Anti-Pot HHS Secretary
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