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.
photo credit: LBJLibraryNow