Very misleading, since we don't really need Congress to reschedule marijuana. That can be done right now by the DEA, which has been dragging their feet on this for a long time. But it can be reclassified, just as the FCC recently reclassified broadband as a public utility. And yes, of course marijuana can be bad for young people, just like too much beer. (Drive through my neighborhood today and you'll see hundreds of youthful idiots wearing green and drinking since the bars opened.)
But it also really rubs me the wrong way when Obama pushes off responsibility to the states. We're feeding enough young lives into the for-profit prison system over this that it would be nice to see some leadership on this issue, instead of a shrug. Huffington Post:
President Barack Obama said if enough states reform their marijuana laws, Congress may change federal law that continues to make the drug illegal.
Obama, during an interview with Vice Media co-founder Shane Smith released in full on Monday, said he's encouraged that liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans seem to agree that current U.S. marijuana laws don't make sense.
"We may be able to make some progress on the decriminalization side," Obama said. "At a certain point, if enough states end up decriminalizing, then Congress may then reschedule marijuana."
Last week, Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) introduced a bill that would reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I drug, which has high potential for abuse and no medical value, to a Schedule II drug, which has lower potential danger and recognized medical benefits. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Twenty-three states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes. Four states, as well as D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana.
"I'd separate out the issue of criminalization of marijuana from encouraging its use," Obama said. "I think there's no doubt that our criminal justice system, generally, is so heavily skewed towards cracking down on non-violent drug offenders that it has not just had a terrible effect on many communities -- particularly communities of color -- rendering a lot of folks unemployable because they got felony records, disproportionate prison sentences. It costs a huge amount of money to states and a lot of states are figuring that out.
"But what I'm encouraged by is you're starting to see not just liberal Democrats, but also some very conservative Republicans recognize this doesn't make sense -- including the libertarian wing of the Republican Party."
Obama cautioned that legalization or decriminalization of marijuana, or any other substance, isn't a panacea.
"I think there is a legitimate concern about the overall effects this has on society, particularly vulnerable parts of our society," Obama said. "Substance abuse generally, legal and illegal substances, is a problem. Locking somebody up for 20 years is probably not the best strategy, and that is something we have to rethink as a society as a whole."
Smith told Obama marijuana was the most popular topic that Vice readers wanted the president to address in the interview, parts of which were released last week. Obama said he understands the interest in the drug, but said the issue of marijuana "shouldn't be young people's biggest priority."
Young people should care about "climate change, the economy, jobs, war and peace," Obama said. Maybe at the bottom of that list, the president said, "you should be thinking about marijuana."
Or, maybe marijuana just seems like a reasonable coping tool when they see what hasn't been done about the climate, the economy, jobs, and ever-impending war.