President Obama talked climate change, the GOP, Iran, ISIS, and pot with VICE News today. With regard to cannabis policy:
“We may be able to make some progress on the decriminalization side. At a certain point, if enough states end up decriminalizing, then Congress may then reschedule marijuana,” he said. “I’d separate out the issue of the criminalization of marijuana from encouraging its use. Our criminal justice system is so heavily skewed toward cracking down on non-violent drug offenders that it has not just had a terrible on effect on many communities — particularly communities of color, rendering a lot of folks unemployable because they got a felony record from disproportionate prison sentences — it costs a huge amount of money to the states and a lot of states are starting to figure that out.
“But what I am encouraged by is you’re starting to see not just liberal democrats but some very conservative republicans recognize this doesn’t make sense.
“Legalization is not a panacea,” the President stated. But “locking somebody up for 20 years is probably not the best strategy.”
Marijuana was the number one most suggested topic from VICE readers, VICE’s Shane Smith told the President, who seemed disappointed.
“It shouldn’t be young people’s biggest priority,” the President said. “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.”
About 700,000 Americans will be arrested for pot this year, and most will be young.
Activist Tom Angell with MarijuanaMajority.com stated on the appearance:
“The president is right that as voters force more and more changes to state marijuana laws, national policymakers will have no choice but to catch up. But he should think again about how important this issue is. On average, there’s a marijuana possession arrest in the U.S. about every minute. Billions of dollars are wasted on enforcing prohibition laws that don’t stop anyone from using marijuana but do ruin people’s lives with damaging criminal records. And the black market is controlled by drug cartels and gangs that use violence to protect their profits. This is a serious issue, and the president needs to treat it as such. In fact, his administration can reschedule marijuana without any further Congressional action needed. He should do that.”
“The one thing young people can do is vote,” said President Obama, in response to a separate question about government intransigence. “In the last mid-term election about a third of eligible voters voted.”