In an interview with Rolling Stone published Nov. 29, President Barack Obama spoke candidly about how he thinks marijuana should be treated:
You can now buy marijuana legally on the entire West Coast. So why are we still waging the War on Drugs? It is a colossal failure. Why are we still dancing around the subject and making marijuana equivalent to a Schedule I drug?
Look, I’ve been very clear about my belief that we should try to discourage substance abuse. And I am not somebody who believes that legalization is a panacea. 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. Typically how these classifications are changed are not done by presidential edict but are done either legislatively or through the DEA. As you might imagine, the DEA, whose job it is historically to enforce drug laws, is not always going to be on the cutting edge about these issues.
[Laughs] What about you? Are you gonna get on the cutting edge?
Look, I am now very much in lame-duck status. And 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, and as I think I mentioned on Bill Maher's show, where he asked me about the same issue, 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. So this is a debate that is now ripe, much in the same way that we ended up making progress on same-sex marriage. There's something to this whole states-being-laboratories-of-democracy and an evolutionary approach. You now have about a fifth of the country where this is legal.
Lame duck or not, there are still more than 40 days for Pres. Obama to grant pardons or commute sentences for those convicted of federal marijuana violations. Please contact the White House and ask the president to use his remaining time in office to restore justice for the victims of marijuana prohibition.
The campaign to end marijuana prohibition received a noteworthy endorsement last week, when the head of the second-largest teachers union in the country said that she supports this year’s ballot initiative in California to regulate marijuana.
Randi Weingarten, president of the 856,000-member American Federation of Teachers, told HBO’s “Real Time” host, Bill Maher, that “everything in moderation is pretty much fine.”
“When something becomes a forbidden fruit,” the 52-year-old told Maher, “you have to spend a whole lot of time making sure that, when you say no, people don’t think you mean yes.”
In another encouraging sign of the growing support for improving our nation’s marijuana laws, last week more than 90 percent of readers at the progressive political blog FireDogLake said they wanted to see that site “get involved” in marijuana policy reform.
Writes FDL editor Jane Hamsher:
“Our audience overwhelmingly believes that the [m]arijuana legalization initiatives are very important, and I think FDL can play a role in helping people to understand what’s at stake, and push back against the false arguments being advanced to perpetuate a [dysfunctional] status quo.”