Obama Interview Hints at One Step Closer to Marijuana Decriminalization
Today, Vice Media released their full interview with President Barack Obama discussing issues of global warming, homeland security and marijuana decriminalization. With nearly half of the states legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes, Obama said, “At a certain point, if enough states end up decriminalizing, then Congress may then reschedule marijuana.”
Last week Senators Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Rand Paul introduced a bill that would amend the Controlled Substances Act rescheduling marijuana from a Schedule I drug with high potential for abuse to a Schedule II drug categorized as having recognized medical benefits. Amending the current Controlled Substance Act would protect medicinal marijuana patients and state approved dispensaries from federal offense and interference.
Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal recreational use. While Obama openly discussed the decriminalization of marijuana he also firmly stated that marijuana “shouldn’t be young people’s biggest priority.” Obama urged young people to care about “climate change, the economy, jobs, war and peace.” Interviewer Shane Smith of Vice Media informed Obama that regardless, marijuana legalization was the top issue that readers wanted addressed during Obama’s interview.
“Substance abuse generally, legal and illegal substances, is a problem. Locking somebody up for 20 years is probably not the best strategy, and that is something we have to rethink as a society as a whole.”
In terms of rebuilding communities, Obama said, “I think there’s no doubt that our criminal justice system, generally, is so heavily skewed towards cracking down on non-violent drug offenders that it has not just had a terrible effect on many communities — particularly communities of color — rendering a lot of folks unemployable because they got felony records, disproportionate prison sentences. It costs a huge amount of money to states and a lot of states are figuring that out.”
The Compassionate Access Research Expansion & Respect States Act (CARERS), if passed would also help rebuild those communities most affected by drug related offenses. According to The Sentencing Project, since 1980 the number of people incarcerated for drug related offenses has climbed from just over 40,000 to over a half million.