Marijuana Legalization: Obama Hints at Easing the War On Drugs

In comments to Barbara Walters, Obama seems to be opening the door to marijuana legalization on a national scale.

Attitudes about the drug are changing and with Washington and Colorado recently approving marijuana for recreational use, there is a growing need for Congress to address the issue on behalf of the federal government. Obama himself was a marijuana smoker in his youth and his comments to Walters, to air Friday night on 20/20, suggest a certain comfort with approaching the issue in a liberal way.

“This is a tough problem, because Congress has not yet changed the law,” Obama told Walters. “What we’re going to need to have is a conversation about, how do you reconcile a federal law that still says marijuana is a federal offense and state laws that say that it’s legal?”

Obama told Walters that he does not “at this point” support widespread marijuana legalization. It is reminiscent of his past views on gay marriage, which he describes as having “evolved” to the point that he is now a supporter. Politically, Obama can’t come out in favor of legalization now, but he’s leaving the door open to it in the future (whether he would even be president then, who knows, but it's a precedent).

National attitudes are certainly shifting. According to a December 5 Quinnipiac University Poll, American voters are in favor of legalizing marijuana 51% - 44%.

In his 1995 memoir, Dreams From My Father, Obama wrote that he regularly smoked marijuana with his high school friends in a “club of disaffection.” Of course, he doesn’t encourage drug use, but when the president no longer needs to pretend that he “didn’t inhale,” the times are certainly a changing.


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Michael McCutcheon

Michael was formerly special projects editor at Mic. Prior to that, he worked at the Open Society Foundations on electoral reform. A native Seattleite, he's still mad about the SuperSonics.

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