Rabat – In his “exit interview” with Rolling Stone magazine, President Obama said that marijuana should be treated as a public-health issue, like how the U.S. treats cigarette and alcohol use.
“Look, I’ve been very clear about my belief that we should try to discourage substance abuse,” Mr. Obama said. “And I am not somebody who believes that legalization is a panacea. But I do believe that treating this as a public-health issue, the same way we do with cigarettes or alcohol, is the much smarter way to deal with it.”
This isn’t the first time President Obama has made public his position on marijuana. In a New Yorker interview he conceded that marijuana isn’t as dangerous as other drugs.
“As has been well documented,” Mr. Obama told David Remnick, “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.”
When pressed to elaborate on how, he said marijuana is less dangerous “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer.”
More recently, Obama told TV host Bill Maher, “I think we’re going to have to have a more serious conversation about how we are treating marijuana and our drug laws generally.”
Noting that Mr.Obama hasn’t made significant strides to legalize marijuana during his tenure, Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner asked why Mr. Obama didn’t take a stronger position on the issue.
In response, Obama pointed to the political climate, saying that it just didn’t allow for this issue to be focused on. He also believes that “it’s important” that states are free to try a different approach.
In August the Drug Enforcement Administration shot down petitions to loosen federal restrictions on marijuana, citing the drug’s lack of “accepted medical use” and its “high potential for abuse.”
Last year Obama indicated that “if enough states end up decriminalizing, Congress may then reschedule marijuana”, a step he described as “progress.” But so far Congress has not taken any steps to amend the federal Controlled Substances Act, and it doesn’t appear to be a top agenda.
Obama hinted that once he leaves office he might be more vocal about marijuana issues: “I will have the opportunity as a private citizen to describe where I think we need to go” he said.