Obama: Marijuana Should Be Treated Like Cigarettes or Alcohol

By Seth Ferranti 12/01/16

"It is untenable over the long term 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."

Obama: Marijuana Should Be Treated Like Cigarettes or Alcohol

In a new interview with Rolling Stone, President Obama suggests that marijuana should be treated like a public health issue and regulated just like alcohol and tobacco.

This is the closest Obama has come to endorsing legalization. Alcohol and tobacco aren’t prohibited by federal law, and Obama implied that marijuana shouldn't be either. Fearful of public backlash, the president has been cautious about airing his views on marijuana. But now that he’s going back to being a private citizen, he is opening up on his views on the drug and its place in the lives of Americans. 

"I am not somebody who believes that legalization is a panacea,” Obama said. “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."

The president continued, "I will have the opportunity as a private citizen to describe where I think we need to go. 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.”

Post-presidency, could Obama become a marijuana crusader? He's admitted in the past that marijuana is less problematic than alcohol, and even said last year that "if enough states end up decriminalizing, then Congress may then reschedule marijuana.”

And there's already a handful of lawmakers dedicated pro-cannabis reform in Congress. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) has proposed legislation that would lift the federal ban on pot in states that have legalized it through the democratic voting process.

When Rolling Stone asked Obama if he couldn’t have done more for marijuana reform, he said it wasn’t feasible for him to do so.

“One of the things that I think it's important for progressives to do when we're in a reflective mode after an election like this is, we can't have it both ways,” Obama said. “We can't say, ‘Why aren't you reaching out to the folks who voted against us? And by the way, why aren't you maximizing getting 100% for the things that those of us, you know, who are already progressive and living on the coasts think should be done right away?’

"The point is that politics in a big, diverse country like this requires us to move the ball forward not in one long Hail Mary to the end zone, but to, you know, systemically make progress.”

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

After landing on the US Marshals Top-15 Most Wanted list and being sentenced to a 25 year sentence in federal prison for a first-time, nonviolent LSD offense, Seth built a writing and journalism career from his cell block. His raw portrayals of prison life and crack era gangsters graced the pages of Don DivaHoopshype and VICE. From prison he established Gorilla Convict, a true-crime publisher and website that documents the stories that the mainstream media can’t get with books like Prison Stories and Street Legends. His story has been covered by The Washington PostThe Washington Times, and Rolling Stone.

Since his release in 2015 he’s worked hard to launch GR1ND Studios, where true crime and comics clash. GR1ND Studios is bringing variety to the comic shelf by way of the American underground. These groundbreaking graphic novels tell the true story of prohibition-era mobsters, inner-city drug lords, and suburban drug dealers. Seth is currently working out of St. Louis, Missouri, writing for The FixVICEOZY, Daily Beast, and Penthouse and moving into the world of film. Check out his first short, Easter Bunny Assassin at sethferranti.com. You can find Seth on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.