In recent weeks, an aide for the Obama administration said the president plans to do nothing new about marijuana policy during his final two years in office -- a stance that frustrated a national cannabis advocate, the Marijuana Majority's Tom Angell. But Angell is pleased by Obama's prediction, included in a YouTube interview on view below, that more states will begin to follow Colorado's marijuana-legalization experiment.
These comments came amid Obama's conversation with Hank Green, one of three YouTube figures with whom he sat for exclusive interviews; Bethany Mota and GloZell Green were the other two granted chats.
Green raised the subject near the end of his segment, and he prefaced the query by noting that while he favors marijuana legalization, he doesn't use the substance himself; he thinks it's bad for his brain.
In response to Green's supposition that the current mishmash of pot laws across the country is confusing, Obama immediately referenced the two states to have gone farthest toward policy reform thus far.
"What you're seeing now is Colorado, Washington through state referenda, they're experimenting with legal marijuana," he said, adding, "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."
From there, Obama expanded the conversation to drug policy in general, pointing out that "we've treated this exclusively as a criminal problem. It's been counterproductive and it's been devastating in a lot of minority communities. It represents the possibility of at least of unequal application of the law.
"The good news is we're staring to get some interest among Republications as well as Democrats in reforming the criminal justice system," Obama went on. In his view, "There's just a smarter way of dealing with these issues."
This isn't the first time President Obama has mentioned the need for drug-law reform. But his casual guess that other states will follow the lead of Colorado and Washington when it comes to marijuana legalization definitely caught Angell's attention.
Via e-mail, Angell writes, "Now that the Obama administration has given marijuana legalization a chance to succeed in Colorado and Washington, we've been able to demonstrate that what our movement has said for years about generating tax revenue, reducing crime and freeing up limited police resources is true. The president is right that in the coming years even more states will move away from prohibition and toward responsible regulation."
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See all of Obama's new YouTube interviews below. The Hank Green discussion is first up, and marijuana is addressed just past the eleven-minute mark.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.