President Obama has a very on again, off again relationship with marijuana. Good news for now, not only does he fully support medical marijuana, he is said to be “enthusiastic” about it.
A CNN special called “Weed 3,” that will be aired on Sunday, depicts President Obama stating his full support of medical marijuana, in addition to advocating for alternative drug abuse treatment that does not include imprisonment. He believes that looking at the science behind it, as opposed to the ideology, is a better way to go.
Elaborating that treating drug abuse issues from a public health model approach instead of an incarceration model would be more beneficial. He cited the declining use of tobacco as a result of that, and explained that this can be accomplished with marijuana without throwing anyone in jail.
Obama is advocating for the education of people about the substances they are using, and making sure that anyone who has an addiction knows when and how to get help.
Weed 3 is the third installment in an ongoing documentary series by CNN’s chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta. Dr. Gupta is an acclaimed neurosurgeon who has become highly supportive of medical marijuana in recent years.
While most network TV specials are centered around the economics of the emerging legal cannabis market, it seems the narrative of Weed 3 will show viewers more insights into medical applications and public policy.
On March 31 President Barack Obama carried out the commutation of 22 federal inmates’ sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. He had done the same with eight federal inmates in December 2014 who had committed similar drug offenses.
Neil Eggleston, who is part of the White House counsel told the media that if these individuals had been sentenced under current laws, the time served would have already passed, and they would have been deemed as individuals who had already repaid their debt to society. He stated,
“Because many were convicted under an outdated sentencing regime, they served years — in some cases more than a decade — longer than individuals convicted today of the same crime.”
Over the past year several bold public statements have been made by Attorney General Eric Holder against the current mass incarceration environment in the United States. Including a number of promises from the administration to make enhancements to the commutation procedures.
Despite the positive rhetoric, President Obama has actually used his power less times than almost any other United States President in history to grant clemency.
There have been several advocacy groups, many made up of family members of incarcerated individuals, who have pressured President Obama significantly to do something about all of the people who are serving mandatory extended minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.
The media relations manager for the Drug Policy Alliance, Anthony Papa, stated, “I am elated that President Obama continues to use his executive powers to grant freedom to those drug offenders who have served draconian sentences.”
Papa went on to say that he was hopeful that this action will convey a message to State Governors as well, so that they can also use their power to grant clemency to individuals who have already served overly long sentences and deserve to get their lives and families back.
Anthony Papa served for 12 years under the famously harsh Rockefeller Drug Laws of New York and was granted clemency in 1997.
If the United States is going to do anything about the issue of mass incarceration, there is a great deal of legislation that Congress must process.
The Smarter Sentencing Act would be at the forefront of this legislation, and it would give judges increased discretion during the sentencing process, decrease mandatory minimum sentences, and render retroactive the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010.
After the 2015 State of the Union Address on Thursday, President Obama agreed to do three interviews with Youtube channel creators Hank Green, Bethany Mota and GloZell Green who all have millions of followers on their Youtube channels. The questions asked during these interviews were influenced by their followers. Topics covered included ObamaCare, North Korea, social media, Cuba, education and of course cannabis.
Hank Green was responsible for posing the questions about marijuana. Green asked President Obama what he thinks the United States must do to “shift out of the gray area weirdness” of state versus Federal legalization. In response to this question, President Obama predicts that more states will experiment with legalization, and showed concern with excessive incarceration and racial disparity in marijuana arrests.
President Obama elaborated,
“Colorado and Washington through state referendum are experimenting with legal marijuana. The position that my administration has been is we still have federal laws that classify marijuana as an illegal substance but we are not going to spend a lot of resources trying to turn back decisions that have been made on the state level on this issue. My suspicion is you’re going to see other states start looking at this.”
Watch the video clip below where President Obama and Hank Green discuss marijuana legalization in the United States, and the rest of the President’s response is written out below the video clip.
President Obama continued,
“What I am doing at the federal level is asking my Department of Justice just to examine generally how we are treating nonviolent drug offenders because I think you’re right. What we have done is instead of focusing on treatment, the same way we focused say with tobacco or drunk driving or other problems where we treat it as a public health problem, we’ve treated this exclusively as a criminal problem. And I think that it’s been counterproductive and it’s been devastating in a lot of minority communities. It presents the possibility at least of unequal application of the law and that has to be changed. Now the good news is that we’re starting to get some interest from Republicans as well as Democrats in reforming the criminal justice system. We’ve been able to initiate some changes administratively and last year you had the first time in 40 years where the crime rate and the incarceration rate went down at the same time. I hope we can continue with those trends because they’re just a smarter way of dealing with these issues.”
It appears as though President Obama’s prediction may be correct because full legalization bills have been filed for the 2015 legislative session in states like Arizona and New York, while states like Indiana, Florida and Virginia will hear bills legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes only.
As more and more Americans are learning the truth behind marijuana prohibition, attitudes are changing and its only a matter of time before policies are also changed. You can also check out this infographic for predictions of which states will be next to legalize marijuana.