Obama: Congress's Job to Change Pot Laws

Obama: Congress's Job to Change Pot Laws

On Friday, President Barack Obama, who has admitted that during college he used marijuana and sometimes “a little blow,” told CNN that it is Congress’s job to remove marijuana from the government’s list of serious narcotics. 

Although the president did not come out overtly and endorse such a move, one might imply that he would not stand in the way.

Recently, in an interview with New Yorker Magazine, Obama shared his belief that marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol. “I stand by my belief, based, I think, on the scientific evidence, that marijuana, for casual users, individual users, is subject to abuse, just like alcohol is and should be treated as a public health problem and challenge,” Obama stated. “But as I said in the interview, my concern is when you end up having very heavy criminal penalties for individual users that have been applied unevenly, and in some cases, with a racial disparity.”

Obama further stated in the New Yorker interview, “As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”

But Obama did not say in the CNN interview that he would specifically back congressional action to remove the Schedule I classification for marijuana. In Colorado and Washington state, marijuana is now legal for recreational use, and it has been decriminalized in twelve other states for medicinal reasons. Obama has warned that his administration will move quickly if marijuana is found moving across state lines or into the hands of minors.

“We’re going to see what happens in the experiments in Colorado and Washington,” Obama said. 

The Department of Justice, you know, under Eric Holder, has said that we are going to continue to enforce federal laws. But in those states, we recognize that we don’t have… the resources to police whether somebody is smoking a joint on a corner. And we are trying to provide them structures to make sure that, you know, big time drug traffickers, the spillover effect of the violence, potentially, of a drug trade are not creeping out of this experiment.

Obama, who is a steadfast advocate for big government, cautioned that big corporations could exploit the new legalization laws. He told CNN, “Those who think legalization is a panacea, I think they have to ask themselves some tough questions, too, because if we start having a situation where big corporations with a lot of resources and distribution and marketing arms are suddenly going out there peddling marijuana, then the levels of abuse that may take place are going to be higher.”