Although President Barack Obama is of the opinion that bringing an end to marijuana prohibition across the entire scope of the nation will not be a salvation’s wing when it comes to dealing with the scourge the War on Drugs has inflicted on the United States, he does believe marijuana should be taxed and regulated in a manner similar to alcohol and tobacco.
In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, released on Tuesday, President Obama said that while he is “not somebody who believes that legalization is a panacea…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."
Unfortunately, Obama appears to be holding back when it comes to giving his true opinion on the issue of marijuana reform, at least until he moves out of the White House and joins the ranks of the average citizens.
“I will have the opportunity as a private citizen to describe where I think we need to go,” he said. “But in light of these referenda passing, including in California, I've already said...that it is untenable over the long term for the Justice Department or the DEA to be enforcing a patchwork of laws, where something that's legal in one state could get you a 20-year prison sentence in another.”
“So this is a debate that is now ripe, much in the same way that we ended up making progress on same-sex marriage. There's something to this whole states being laboratories of democracy and an evolutionary approach. You now have about a fifth of the country where this is legal,” he added.
While encouraging, it is a shame that President Obama did not offer up more of this attitude during his eight years in office. However, his toe-in-the-water approach to legalization -- taking a hands off approach to legal states -- is the best support the reform movement has ever experienced from a president since Nixon declared war on weed decades ago.
Still, some marijuana legalization advocates say President Obama could have done more throughout his term to really put the nation on a path to more sensible policies with respect to marijuana.
“While President Obama’s comments are correct, and we certainly appreciate how he gave room for states to set their own policies during his administration, it would have been very helpful if he had taken more concrete positive action on this issue before it was almost time to vacate the Oval Office,” Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority, told MERRY JANE. “That this president didn’t apply pressure on the DEA to reschedule marijuana this year will likely go down as one of the biggest disappointments of the Obama era.
“However, there is still time to help people who are suffering under drug policies that President Obama correctly criticizes,” he continued. “He could, for example, effectuate blanket commutations of sentences for people who are serving time behind bars for nonviolent drug crimes for no good reason whatsoever. Now, more than ever, it’s time for President Obama to walk the walk in addition to talking the talk."
It is likely that President Obama will continue to commute the sentences of non-violent drug offenders for the remainder of his term, but doubtful that he will use his last couple of months to initiate any changes to the federal marijuana laws.
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For now, the fate of the marijuana movement remains uncertain, as President-elect Donald Trump, who is set to take control of the nation in January, has recruited a number of marijuana opponents to his cabinet. This has caused some panic among those with interest in the cannabis industry, as well as those advocates pushing for change at the national level.
Looking forward, it is distinctly possible, by this time next year, the 60 percent of the American population who now supports marijuana legalization will find themselves sorely missing the days of the Obama Administration.