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Obama Elaborates on Marijuana Policy

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #820)

In an interview with CNN Friday, President Obama expanded on his remarks regarding marijuana made in a recent New Yorker interview. In that latter interview, Obama described marijuana as not being any worse than alcohol, and CNN interviewer Jake Tapper pressed him on those comments.

President Barack Obama (
When Tapper asked him about rescheduling marijuana out of Schedule I, the most restrictive classification, he declined to take a position, instead trying to pass the buck to Congress.

"First of all, what is and isn't a Schedule I narcotics is a job for Congress," he said.

That comment was misleading. While Congress created the drug schedules and placed drugs in different schedules when it passed the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, the act gives the executive branch the power to reschedule drugs. In fact, the DEA has denied three separate petitions seeking to reschedule marijuana.

"I stand by my belief based 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," he said.

The president added that his main concern was the criminalization of marijuana use.

"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," he said. "I think that is a problem. We're going to see what happens in the experiments in Colorado and Washington. The Department of Justice under Eric Holder has said that we are going to continue to enforce federal laws."

Obama added that the federal government doesn't have enough manpower to bust people "smoking a joint on the corner." But it doesn't need to; more than 90% of all marijuana arrests are made by state and local police, not federal law enforcement.

Instead of concentrating on individual users, Obama said, the federal government was working to prevent undesired consequences, such as out-of-state drug trafficking or violence, from "creeping out of this experiment that is taking place."

The president also issued a "cautionary note" about the possible consequences of a commercialized marijuana industry and warned legalization proponents to watch out for increased use levels.

"I think they have to ask themselves some tough questions, too," he said. "Because if we start having a situation where big corporations with lots 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."

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


saynotohypocrisy (not verified)

  Obama and Co reacted well to CO and WA legalizing recreational weed, they are apparently going to move in a significant way on extreme prison sentences for users and low level illegal drug dealers (same thing a lot of the time), they are going to sign a farm bill that has a small step forward on hemp, and they apparently are going to do something to insure access to banking for state-legal marijuana businesses. 

But nothing for the most innocent victims of the war on selected drugs, the people who need MMJ but still are considered criminals for using it in more than 1/2 the states, no matter how badly they need it, even if it's high CBD, low THC weed we are talking about. On the subject of MMJ, he's still being pure gangster league and waging war on science and on compassion.

Fri, 01/31/2014 - 5:57pm Permalink
TrebleBass (not verified)

the only potential problem with marijuana is for those people who are prone to paranoia, and the solution to that problem is cbd. if the president just came out and said, "let it be legal, and make sure people are aware that cbd reduces paranoia, and have it available so that those who are prone to paranoia can have access to it", then he wouldn't have to worry about problems with abuse because even if overused, the only problem marijuana can cause people that is of any significance (other than bronchitis for heavy life long users (but vaporizers fix that)) is paranoia. so if we already have a solution to that that comes from the same fucking plant, then there really is absolutely zero reason to even worry about people using massive amounts of it; even if every person in the entire country was doing it (except perhaps for kids, but it shouldn't be that difficult to keep it off kids' hands (not teenagers, but teenagers have always used drugs and alcohol. they're smoking today anyway. im talking about kids. there isn't a big problem with kids drinking or smoking cigarettes; there wouldn't be with marijuana)). The whole "im worried about too many people using" thing is unwarranted.

Fri, 01/31/2014 - 6:02pm Permalink
TrebleBass (not verified)

In reply to by Bo (not verified)

When i say paranoia i mean something like an abstract sense of something being wrong that is ambiguous, like an anxiety about something being wrong that one can't put one's finger on exactly what it is. I'm the type of person who's very prone to that, the vast majority of people i know who smoke don't get as paranoid as me, and i suspect that would happen to me even if it was legal. I'm in the minority for whom marijuana can be genuinely significantly harmful psychologically. However, i very strongly agree with what you're saying. The whole social situation of it being illegal (where you have to keep it secret or semi secret that you smoke) exacerbates paranoia, and the very real possibility of being arrested or harassed by cops is an extreme exacerbating factor in paranoia. If anyone who understood the effects of marijuana (the fact that this is the only real potential problem it might cause) had a real interest in helping reduce the problem, they would understand that prohibition is the exact opposite of what's needed to reduce the problem. If anyone looked at it logically for one minute and said: "okay, so here we have this drug. it doesn't really do any harm except for the aspect of it causing paranoia for some people who are psychologically prone to it. what do we do about this?" sending the police after people to arrest them would be the stupidest idea in the world. But that would assume that they actually wanted to do something to help society. In fact it's the exact opposite. It is fucking abusive. "here we have these people who we know might be experiencing paranoia, and what we want to do is to give them a real reason to be afraid". That is fucking abusive. If it was allegedly a response to the problem it would be counterproductive. But it's vastly worse than counterproductive. It is fucking abusive. Aside from the fact that it should be people's right to smoke, if it was legal the only potential problem that the drug causes would be dramatically reduced by the mere situation of it being legal. Apart from that, the best possible pharmacological agent to treat paranoia (cbd) will be absolutely unavailable in any illegal market. So not only are they abusively intentionally worsening the problem, they are also making sure that those who are affected have no access to the solution. It's severely fucked up and it's about fucking time society started to realize how fucked up prohibition is. It really is amazing that it has taken this long for just over 50% of society to realize this.

Sat, 02/01/2014 - 6:44pm Permalink
Clyde Null (not verified)

In reply to by TrebleBass (not verified)

Here I thought I was reading what a learned person had written, but alas with one gutter word "fu*k" I was blown away and turned off to whatever else was to be said. Clean up your language and a lot of people will listen much better to what you have to say!

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 7:37pm Permalink
Sean H (not verified)

In reply to by Clyde Null (not verified)

Clyde, a man's education has no bearing at all on whether he chooses to use the word Fuck. That is more of a condescending attitude and a diversionary tactic used  to remove the focus from the message to a word in an attempt to discredit the message. What you are trying to say is that You are intolerant of the word Fuck as are many other people, usually but not always of a religious background. He was not asking for your approval and his message is good. I think there are more creative, and easier to digest words than Fuck, but that is my opinion. You say, "Clean up your language and a lot of people will listen much better to what you have to say!" and you may be right, that is your opinion. But to imply that he is "not-learned", is condescending and intolerant. Since you brought the focus to the word Fuck, lets explore it. says this about the usage of the word Fuck,

 Usage note

For many people, the word fuck  is extremely vulgar, considered improper and taboo in all of its senses. Yet various forms of the word, primarily in its nonliteral, slang senses, have increasingly crept into casual use, not only as spontaneous expletives of shock, horror, or anger, but also as verbal tics and common intensifiers, mere indices of annoyance or impatience or even pleasant surprise: Where are my fucking keys?  What the fuck is taking so long? This is fucking awesome!  Nevertheless, the term is best avoided altogether in “polite company.” The mass broadcast media have actually been forced by the threat of punitive fines to block audiences from hearing it, either by banning its use entirely or by bleeping all or part of the sound—if only by blocking out nothing more than the vowel sound in the middle.
 Although its first known occurrence in writing dates from the late 1400s (disguised in a cipher at that), the word fuck  was undoubtedly heard long before that, and it remains primarily a creature of the spoken language. Well into the 20th century, it was generally regarded as “unprintable,” and forms like f***  or f--k  or some spelling distortion like frack  or frig  or fork  or fug  were typically substituted for it in writing. In speech, creative euphemisms abound, some born with each new generation. We now have eff  and effing  as well as f-word  and f-bomb,  all of which allow us to discuss the term without resorting to its actual use.


As you can see Clyde the word Fuck has been around for a long time and is not going anywhere soon. You will save yourself a lot of irritation if you just get over it and keep your eye on the intended communication.  That said, I apologize for going so far off topic.

Have an Awesome Day!


Fri, 02/07/2014 - 7:09pm Permalink
Mark Mitcham (not verified)

I too wish president Obama would deschedule cannabis. Maybe he will. But I've gotta say, he's pointing out in public things that need to be acknowledged, racial disparity, for example. I've been waiting for decades for a US Rep or better to stop spouting reefer madness horseshit, and acknowledge some basic facts. Now our president is doing it. Let's give credit where due. But it's still we the people who must demand change, or the system will continue on. I think he's helping, and further I hope he is setting the stage for federal law reform.
Fri, 01/31/2014 - 8:18pm Permalink
bob king (not verified)

After that circus over the ACA do you not see the how the Tparty would react to a democratic president legalizing pot by fiat (as they would see it) !!   They would be on that like a starving pit bull on a gravy soaked pork chop !  Do you REALLY want a repeat of last year ? !

Sat, 02/01/2014 - 6:42am Permalink
neo-realist (not verified)

Obama is a political coward and a weak tea centrist.  The republicans are always going to squeal like pigs when he does something they disagree with.  He does need to grow a pair and reschedule marijuana, but I suspect he's been compromised by powerful corporate interests, e.g., big pharma, big liquor, big law enforcement (DEA),  and the private prison industry.

Sat, 02/01/2014 - 3:58pm Permalink
Uncle Bob (not verified)

Sounds like the President is leaning in the direction of SAM :/  With their lip service about "It shouldn't be lock em up, nor legalize.. it should be somewhere in the middle."

But we all recognize SAM's lip service as a ruse to uphold the status quo, because if something isn't legal, then it's illegal, period.  There IS no middle ground.

Sat, 02/01/2014 - 6:41pm Permalink
Mark Mitcham (not verified)

In reply to by Uncle Bob (not verified)

Good point, and I agree with you. However, by even verbalizing the S.A.M. non-position so openly, he's advancing our cause toward full legalization. As you pointed out the S.A.M. position makes no sense, and it represents a retreat from more blatant bullshit. He's already being noted for having understated marijuana's safety with respect to alcohol, others like you will do the same in this case. People are catching on, it would seem; any rational, public discussion of the facts and fiction about marijuana has to be good for our side.
Sun, 02/02/2014 - 5:05pm Permalink
Liberty Libert… (not verified)

It is disappointing when CO and WA are labeled experiments, when perhaps prohibition is the experiment.
Tue, 02/04/2014 - 12:07am Permalink

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