Marijuana legalization efforts got a giant boost this week when President Barack Obama said he expects more states to move toward legalization, and he won’t have the federal government stand in the way.
In an interview with YouTube personalities, Obama indicated that though marijuana is still classified as an illegal substance by the federal government, he doesn’t have much intention to stop states from legalizing it.
“The position of my administration has been that we still have federal laws that classify marijuana as an illegal substance, but we’re not going to spend a lot of resources trying to turn back decisions that have been made at the state level on this issue,” Obama said.
“My suspicion is that you’re gonna see other states start looking at this.”
Nationwide, attitudes toward marijuana legalization have been gradually shifting. A poll late last year found that 51 percent of Americans are now in favor of legalization, part of a long-term trend toward support. When Gallup polled Americans in 1969, just 12 percent of adults were in favor of legalizing marijuana. That grew to 28 percent in the 1970s, and 34 percent in 2003.
More Americans don’t want to see drug users prosecuted. A father, recently arrested for giving medicinal marijuana oil to his cancer-stricken daughter, found widespread support, with 130,000 people signing a petition asking that charges be dropped.
Obama also added that federal drug policy would be shifting toward ending the so-called War on Drugs and focusing on treating it instead as a public health issue. Obama added that he has bipartisan support on the issue.
“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.”
President Obama’s prediction on marijuana legalization has already come true, in large part. There are now 23 states in which marijuana is at least partly legal.