With several more states expected to legalize marijuana in Tuesday’s election, President Obama believes the federal government will be forced to get serious about changing its laws against the herb.
In a recent interview with HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, the president explained what was at stake if the voters in five states—Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada—decide to approve ballot measures intended to legalize marijuana in manner similar to what is currently underway in four other states and the District of Columbia.
“The good news is is that after this referenda, to some degree it’s gonna call the question, because if in fact it passed in all these states, you now have about a fifth of the country that’s operating under one set of laws, and four-fifths in another,” Obama said.
Obama then went on to tell Maher that the outcome of the upcoming election could cause mass confusion within the federal agencies responsible for enforcing the nation’s drug laws. While those agencies will undoubtedly continue to try and stop interstate drug trafficking, there will likely soon be parts of the United States where even this level of policing no longer makes sense.
“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 gonna guard against transporting these drugs across state lines, but you’ve got the entire Pacific corridor where this is legal—that is not gonna be tenable,” he said.
Although President Obama does not believe legalization will remedy all of the issues associated with marijuana, he does think the time has come for the nation to reconsider its position against the plant.
“I don’t think that legalization is a panacea,” Obama said, “but I think that we’re going to have to have a more serious conversation about how we are treating marijuana and our drug laws generally.”
Indeed, the time has come for the federal government to starting working toward some concrete reform with respect to the national marijuana laws.
Last month, a new Gallup poll found a record breaking number of the American population (60 percent) now supports legalizing the leaf similar to how the country handles alcohol. These numbers represent the highest outpouring of support on this issue since Gallup began polling the cannabis question nearly 50 years ago.
Special thanks to Tom Angell with the Marijuana Majority for transcribing President Obama’s statements.
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