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Obama Says Drug Legalization is "An Entirely Legitimate Topic for Debate" [Updated]

The staggering vote count and significant media coverage of the demand for discussion of drug policy in today's YouTube interview were too great to ignore. Obama gave us an answer this time, and here it is:

Update: Let me begin by saying that the substance of the President's answer is inconsequential insofar as nothing more than this could possibly have been expected. The greatest significance of today's event lies in the fact that a pro-legalization police officer overwhelmingly won the popular vote on YouTube and compelled a response from the President of the United States. By acknowledging the legitimacy of this discussion, Obama helps us to dig an even deeper grave for the dying notion that there is anything frivolous or unserious about arguing for an end to the War on Drugs.

The banal pot-jokes and rank stereotyping that have often tainted mainstream discussion of the legalization movement have no place in this conversation, and the President's words should serve to discredit those who've voiced distracting insults instead of potential solutions. Whatever else the President may put forward, his singular decision to accept and defend our advocacy as "entirely legitimate" is a leap forward, both for the discussion as a whole and for Obama himself.

I will address in a separate post the appropriate criticisms of his specific remarks (of which there are many), but let us not fail to find any promise in today's events simply because we expect much more. This is a heroic accomplishment by our friends at LEAP and really the entire drug policy reform community, which has achieved blinding visibility in recent years and shattered the presumption of public deference that has long sheltered the drug war from mainstream opposition.

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He is not a pro-cannabis anti-drug war president

He wants to treat responsible cannabis use as a medical problem and basically call cannabis users people with a addiction problem. If you read between the lines and analyze what he says, then you will see his position and what he proposes will not work. Further, his position will continue with the violation of personal freedom to consume cannabis responsibly.

Did You Expect Something Different?

You're right, of course, that he still sees consumers of even mild drugs like cannabis to be victims of their own desires.  That's the most generous reading I can give to the above video, and it's full of problems.

Still though, did you really expect something different?  Just acknowledging that it's a legitimate topic for debate is actually a pretty striking declaration, and flies in the face of Kerlikowskie's "not in my vocabulary" bull.  Remember that in the fight for drug law reform, the federal government will be the absolute last group to join the party, no matter who is in office.  They'll have to be dragged along by we the people, kicking and screaming every step of the way.

This isn't a "good" answer, as anyone who cares about drug policy reform will freely acknowledge.  But it could have been a whole lot worse.

No, but

I did not expect anything different from him. However, I assume other people might have, and I just want it to be clear that his response did not dodge the question. He certainly answered and opposes legalization and opposes a real end to the drug war. He only wants to rename the drug war and change tactics a bit. All of which, will not help.

He is however, the most

He is however, the most progressive President in regards to the Drug War that the United States has had. He is not dictator of the US. Congress plays a large role in how this nation is governed. Sadly, many in this nation still fall for the Reaganesq "Just Say No" BS. Thankfully, things are changing slowly.


The President is running for re-election and is in a climate where anything that he says could be considered slightly controversial is presented as him "ignoring the constitution" or proof that he is "unAmerican". When he is re-elected, I think we will see more action. Especially if states continue to pass treatment/harm reduction friendly regulation.


As the article stated, just him acknowledging that legalization is a major step. The fact that he talks about how treatment is more favorable than arrest is something that we haven't really ever heard from a President. This President is far more aware of the impact of drug abuse on society, especially its impact on the American inner-city. 


It is up to us to continue to bring this issue up and let him know where we stand. Right now, we have some very serious problems and I want him to focus on creating more jobs and keeping the last 22 months of job growth going. Once we stabilize the economy we can focus even more on the issues discussed at this website. 


Cannabis use, while not physically addictive can have psychological effects. It can effect people negatively. To act as if it doesn't is as silly as keeping it illegal is. However, I do not get the impression from his statements that you do.

Not Good Enough

And Obama pulled the Schwarzenegger. "Now I don't support it but I'm open for a discussion." Translation "I am a political vagina who is afraid to say what I said January 21st 2004 on camera again so hopefully this tricks you dopers into thinking I support you so you re-elect me. Oh and also do all the drug law reform work for me, because like I said I Am A Political Vagina."

We don't care if you think discussion is legitimate. We want you to stop implying cannabis users are doped up addicts and drug law reformers are misguided hippies. we want what Rosa Parks wanted. Equality in Civil Liberties. Sorry Obama but you pushed me into doing something I said I would never do. Registering as a Republican, I'm voting for Gary Johnson in 2012! I don't accept fox hole pleas to placate me the year before you want to get re-elected. You had four years to show us an administration based on Science instead if Politics, you didn't. Why should I believe another four years would be any different? You have one year left, doubtful it will be any different though.

Right on

I too am seriously considering voting for Gary Johnson. Though I don't agree with your choice of wording, "political vagina." I think Obama is wrong and ignorant on the issue of cannabis.

I did not mean to offend with

I did not mean to offend with the term. It was actually what I considered the least offensive from my possible list of terms. For correctness sake let's just go with Political Coward. Also, High five on Gary Johnson. A lot of people think he is crazy but I feel he is just very different from what we would consider traditional politics and worries a lot of people.

I did not mean to offend with

I did not mean to offend with the term. It was actually what I considered the least offensive from my possible list of terms. For correctness sake let's just go with Political Coward. Also, High five on Gary Johnson. A lot of people think he is crazy but I feel he is just very different from what we would consider traditional politics and worries a lot of people.

Its time we move away from traditional politics anyway

I was just a tad offended, only because of the gender association vagina = coward/weak. No need to reaffirm the false gender stereotypes. Beyond that, I think we need to take the higher ground and avoid name calling. And believe me, I am not trying to put you down or piss you off. I know its hard, I often need to take many deep breaths and think carefully before I write when I see some of the stories on blogs such as this. I try really hard to take the direct criticism route and offer a counter-argument to whatever fallacy or irrational thought that irks me, but I myself fall into pissed of rants where I call people fools and such. You see Bill O'Reily name-call "pin-head" all the time once he starts to lose an argument. Who, I must say, is an irrational and ignorant man. He and the people like him are going to be the biggest obstacle in ending prohibition and getting cannabis legalized, because they buy into the propaganda, never have and never will try it (not that they should or have to, just at least respect what others do), and will refuse to see any other point of view as plausible.

As far as traditional politics goes and Gary Johnson, we need to get away from the rhetoric, double talk, and constant fallacious reasoning that we see in political debates from politicians, pundits, and newscasters. You know...personal attacks, claims that loose association counts as cause (like the gate-way drug theory, or trying to reason that parents who consume cannabis commit child abuse), straw man arguments, etc. I think if people really want to reform education, change American attitude, and compete with other nations then start with philosophy classes in junior high - logic and moral theory, but not metaphysics, most college kids can't even handle it - sound reasoning skills never lose value and are a platform for all fields of study. In addition, if you reason correctly you'll see cannabis legalization is a good thing. But anyway, now I've ranted a bit too much about non-issues...Gary Johnson 2012.

What can the President say or do?

Think about it, he can not do anything but, he can make sure things get enforced.... Do we all agree Marijuana should be controlled at State levels and the Feds should only be over seeing it. The people who where instrumental in getting Marijuana prohibited had few if any rights to do so at that time but, due to the (dark ages attitude) and none to minimal knowledge of what it is or what it can do and if it was or is deadly...  although they did in fact fill their pockets with money with profits from DuPont and their investments! Some really good reading --->  also, California back in the day also, good reading   I guess the President can do something... ,   so why have we not gone forward as in the past? So, who gained and who lost at this point I ask you, the rich get richer and the poor well what can I say we all just trying to make it.

There is hope we just have to be smarter than the average do nothing status quo folks.



Obama's remarks


   Don't expect Obama to come all the way across at once. It's a painful process, but we don't need the backlash that accompanied Bill Clinton's attempt to allow gays in the military. That set back the process for years.


   Obamas said "no legalization" in so many words and then gave all the reasons for it.  He set the stage for the public to say what the...? if drug use is a health problem, why are we treating it as a crime problem? Then he won't be able to explain and will have to come across-his lame duck term.

I stopped reading right after

I stopped reading right after you called the President of the United States a "political P*ssy". That is what you meant by calling him a "vagina", do not try  to play dumb. Saying stuff like that doesn't help at all and feeds into the sterotype that some hold about harm reduction advocates.


President Obama is dealing with a house full of hard right "tea party" Republicans. Do you see them passing any type of drug legalization laws? No. President Obama is not king of the United States. Congress introduces laws. Furthermore, this is mainly a states issue. If the majority of the people in the US start decriminalizing drugs in their respective states than he is going to see the support. We are not there yet.

Obviously, he needs to worry about his re-election. The economy is starting to improve, 22 months straight of job growth. This is what he is worried about right now. Just imagine how the Republicans would react if he said we should legalize drugs. Do you see what I am getting at? There are far more factors at play than just the President.


We have to be realistic here. 


The fact that he said that treatment is more effective than arrest and that legalization is a "valid issue" is more than any President has ever done.  These are steps in the right direction.

A window of opportunity is upon us

The window of opportunity opened up a crack today. Now we need to seize the moment and build the momentum going forward, just like they are doing in Tunisia, Egypt etc. If we don't, then all hope will be lost.

No More Lies in 2012 - Ron Paul

He will start to debate it when it becomes near election time and he will make people think he will legalize it but it won't change federal law. They will still kill your dog, then you and come and get your guns.

He also said he "wants to change the attitudes of people about drugs". He needs to change his own attitude on smoking and lying. Leave it to the families to change their childrens attitudes, not the government.

When he said he wants to change our attitudes, it make me feel I am a child and he is my parent.

I think that he is going to either sick Eric Holder on everyone again and vomit propaganda so that people will still believe it is harmful.

Now a word from (their) Sponsor

While Obama had to quit smoking $igarettes to run for President, Boehner (up to a pack a day of a "Light" brand), still wavers.  Check statistics on donations from tobacco industry: Boehner and McConnell in top five (several hundred thousand each). 

That money, while it appears small compared to election costs, actually buys the Companies the right to spend an undisclosed huge multiple of that on salaries for the well-dressed, well-trained lobbyists who haunt the politicians' staffs and Congressional offices schmoozing with all available individuals and pushing pro-tobacco anti-"Drug" viewpoints.  What is John H. Fish (Vice President for Legislative Affairs at R. J. Reynolds, and a former member of Boehner's Congressional staff) telling Mr. Boehner to do about cannabis legalization?  How much is Reynolds paying him for his services?

Obama is now calling cannabis

Obama is now calling cannabis patients and users a health problem?  This guy is lying or is out of touch.  On second though Obama' s admitted drug use must have made him stupid.  If this guy does not get progressive or create real change, I am not going to vote for this guy again.

from escalating punishment to least harm. Different pov.

It's not so much a health problem, it's just that the issue belongs in the Health realm instead of the Crime realm. If they want to consider everyone who uses as a patient who needs counseling; well, that's an improvement over viewing cannabis consumers as moral degenerates. Then, in the Health realm, we can advance the discussion to "everyone who uses is a patient topping off their endocannabinoid system," and refer to the ancient Chinese pharmacopoeia describing cannabis as a general tonic.

Of course Kathryn you are

Of course Kathryn you are right, he said they need council.  This is what I meant too.

This is were I am offended.  As a cannabis patient I do not need counseling. I am a leader in company and in my industry as a whole.  I am athletic.  I invest successfully... well mostly.  In other words I am a healthy contributing member to society and our economy.  I am healthy except for my injuries, and not a burden on health care.  I take care of my injuries with a natural substance.  Just because I ingest cannabis -- now I am now a crisis to society and need to go before psychiatric council?  I wonder if they have any special medications planned for people who are soothed by cannabis to 'wean' them off?

And I do not like the government wanting to reduce demand by -- changing the way people think -- about drugs.  This is hard sell propaganda meant to scare people over.  I don't like his mind f*ck thingy.

I hope that President Obama was just trying to pander to his drug warrior opponents, to just balance out what he thought was a profound move to: 1.  Acknowledge the questions, even from BEFORE. and 2. Say we need a debate and mean it.  Then Obama will be my hero and I will easily vote for this clever man.


Our votes are a inside joke, I donot believe that we truely have a real voting system. They have us vote with the delusion that we are free but in fact they are the ones that truely elect our leaders

libertyherb's picture

Obama's response

This was a HORRIBLE Response to a great question.

Obama, doesn't get it.  He thinks that answer is to "go after drug cartels" and treat willful consumers as addicts.  He wants to expand the government's deficit spending even further with government sponsored drug treatment clinics.  This is NOT the constitutional role of our government and you can't just "shift resources" on the subject. 

If you're supporting Americans' freedom of choice, you need to ELIMINATE wasteful, over-reaching programs like the DEA. and half of the other enforcement / judicial resources and let people be responsible for celebrating their freedoms any way they see fit, so long as they harm no others.  Now THAT"S AMERICAN FREEDOM.

And, while we're on the subject, why are the American people so happy to concede to government regulation when advocating for legalization?  Again, the government's role is NOT to babysit our choices in the free market.  Until we amend the constitution to say that the government has the right and responsibility to decide what can and can't be presented for choices in the "free" market, prohibition is just wrong.  Obama, like most other politicians on both sides, are just way off base in understanding the constitutional job description of their duties.

Still a hypocrite

Clever,oh yes,by half.He's clever alright.He just made the legalisation side think they scored a point while confirming the prohibition of drugs for all time.It wasn't that long ago he was all for the decriminalization of marijuana,sorry cannabis.Then he found out he actually had a chance at being elected and we became a bunch of drugged out losers.This is the guy that did several face plants in bowls of coke and was lucky enough to get away with it.Now everyone who does a line is right for rehab,and right now.Politicians!The guy who mentioned Egypt had the right idea.It's time we took it to the street and demanded the right to freedom over what we put in our own bodies.We are suffering under laws passed in the Victorian era.What other laws from that era that forbid personal behavior still exist in law?Obama has proven himself to be a hypocrite.I said that I was willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt.Now there's no doubt at all.

David Dunn's picture

US Constitution vs. Controlled Substances Act (CSA)

Article I, Section 8 Clause 8 of the Constitution provides that Congress shall promote the progress of science and useful arts. 

Over 50,000 products can be made from hemp, including cancer cures.

By classifying hemp as a Schedule I drug, the CSA subverts the intent of our founders and the Constitution. Congress, and apparently the President, think that the CSA preempts the Constitution.

The War on Drugs is a war on hemp. Americans who use, grow, buy and sell anything hemp are simply abiding by the US Constitution.

It's law enforcement and legislators who are refusing to abide by the Constitution.

It's time to remove all things hemp from the Controlled Substances Act.

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