President Obama said in a YouTube interview Thursday that he predicts more and more states will legalize recreational marijuana. While this was by no means an expressed endorsement for legalization, the president did cite his administration’s stance of non-interference with states that legalize as a reason for the movement’s increased success.
“What you’re seeing now is Colorado, Washington, through state referenda, they’re experimenting with legal marijuana,” Obama said. “The position of my administration has been that we still have federal laws that classify marijuana as an illegal substance, but we’re not going to spend a lot of resources trying to turn back decisions that have been made at the state level on this issue. My suspicion is that you’re gonna see other states start looking at this.”
While recreational marijuana is already legal in Colorado and Washington and will soon be sold in Oregon, Alaska, and Washington, D.C., marijuana is still an illegal Schedule I drug according to federal law. In spite of this, the Obama administration’s Department of Justice has urged federal prosecutors to leave state-legal marijuana operations alone.
Obama also addressed the mishandling of the nation’s ‘drug problem’ by treating non-violent drug offenders as hardened criminals.
“What we have done is instead of focusing on treatment — the same way we focused, say, with tobacco or drunk driving or other problems where we treat it as a public health problem — we’ve treated this exclusively as a criminal problem,” Obama said. “I think that it’s been counterproductive, and it’s been devastating in a lot of minority communities. It presents the possibility at least of unequal application of the law, and that has to be changed.”
While you may argue with the president, you can’t argue with statistics. The U.S. comprises 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prisoners. Also, a 2013 American Civil Liberties Union report found that blacks are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites. The system, undeniably, is broken.
While it’s easy to wish that Obama would do more than just admit statistically proven points and take a hands-off, noncommittal stance on legalization, at least he’s done something, and prohibition has officially begun to meet its end due to his administration’s calculated lack of action.