President Obama Says Marijuana Should Be Treated Like Alcohol

  • by NORML December 1, 2016

    president_obamaIn a just published “exit interview” with Rolling Stone Magazine, President Barack Obama opined that marijuana use should be treated as a public-health issue, not a criminal matter, and called the current patchwork of state and federal laws regarding the drug “untenable.”

    “Look, I’ve been very clear about my belief that we should try to discourage substance abuse,” Obama said. “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.”

    He added, “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.”

    Although the administration, largely in its second term, has permitted states to experiment with marijuana legalization policies without federal interference, it has not pushed strongly for any permanent changes in federal law, such as amending cannabis’ schedule I classification or permitting banks to work closely with state-licensed marijuana businesses. As a result, some marijuana law reform advocates believe that President Obama has not done enough to move the issue forward during his tenure. Responding to this criticism, Obama said: “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.”

    Why Obama believes that he will have greater opportunities to address cannabis policy as a private citizen than he did as President of the United States leaves us scratching our heads, but we certainly hope that he follows through on his pledge to focus on drug policy reform in the next phase of his political career.

    You can read President Obama’s exit interview with Rolling Stone in it’s entirety here.

    129 responses to “President Obama Says Marijuana Should Be Treated Like Alcohol”

    1. Anonymous says:

      Live long and prosper President Obama,, We’ll miss you.
      Now for Drug War III. If you liked Nixon and Reagan,,, Trump will give you and orgasm.

      • Steve says:

        You’re delusional anonymous. What has Obama done for legalization? That’s right, nothing. At least Trump said he would leave it up to the states.

        • Julian says:

          Obama wrote a memo to the DOJ to allow the state legalization we would now otherwise not see in our lifetime. If he had issued an executive order it would have killed state legalization in federal court.
          Drumph nominated Senator Jeff Sessions to US Attorney General, the most racist, outspoken prohibitionist in public office, who could single handedly take state legalization to federal court and dismantle everything weve worked for.
          You must be one of those folks that gets there “news” from Facebook. Because you clearly dont read this blog that often.

          • Jim alabama says:

            Today we learned that General Kelly, who was southern command CINC, is gonna be the new head of “homeland security”.

            Southern Command. Think Central and South America. He has been the greatest general in the drug war. The war against people. The ineffective war which was started by Nixon, escalated by Reagan, sneakily GREATLY further escalated by bush post 911. Here we go again thinking the more troops and money and rights abrogation we throw at the drug war the more successful we will be.

            I wonder how many Americans know 911 was used quietly as an excuse to “end the drug war” as much or moreso than a reason to fight terrorists.

            Now we have an mj ignorant ag and a drug war general in charge of homeland security. As Arsenio Hall used to say ” things that make you go hmmm”.

            Drug addiction and abuse, not the same as partying, is a medical and social problem. Not a criminal problem.

            • Blake says:

              “911 was used quietly as an excuse to end the drug war” as much or moreso than a reason to fight terrorists” end quote. How in the heck was 911 an excuse to end the drug war? Do you mean GREATLY EXPAND the drug war and DESTROY ANY NOTION of PRIVACY aka PATRIOT ACT? Because it sure as heck didn’t end it.

          • Linda says:

            Learn from history but focus on what’s happening now – right now. The DEA is taking a critical look at how media is normalizing the use of marijuana. Media…NORML, Leafly, Word on the Tree, etc. In other words, the pesky media is getting in the way of the new administration’s plan to put marijuana back on the public enemy list. Please don’t underestimate the lengths that a well funded law enforcement apparatus will go to. Your constitutional and state rights will be violated first, and then you will be welcome to challenge it in court (if you can afford it). We have GOT to stop arguing about who shot john and go big to protect our media outlets and State laws.

        • Bob says:

          The “lame duck” comment seems to be a confession that he did not feel comfortable supporting legalization/decriminalization while in office for political reasons, and we can further assume that this is a factor in other Presidents’ stances on this matter as well.. I don’t think we should hit him too hard with criticism, because leaving states alone was very helpful by itself, but he should have had the principles to stand up for this while he was in office.

        • Bob Sacamento says:

          Obama let the states go through with setting up a system of legizalization despite it being against federal law. He legally and very easily could have conducted raids in these states and didnt. In fact, former Attorney General Holder also wrote a memorandum to states outlining the administration policy hands off policy. This provided a level of certainty to governors that it was okay to move ahead and investors. See link to article on memo below


          Trump now has nominated sessions as the new attorney general. One of the most ardent prohibitionists in government. I cant say for sure what Trump is going to do, but he very well could start raiding marijuana stores and grow operations. Its completely legal under federal law. Hopefully your right and Trump will be good for weed legalization, but I can’t say things are looking that good right now.

        • Mark Mitcham says:

          Steve, it’s not what Trump says that counts, but rather what Trump does that counts. If you’re in favor of marijuana legalization, and you also voted for Trump, you’ve been betrayed.

          • Anonymous says:

            People who voted for Trump betrayed the legalization movement. But don’t take my word for it,, sit back and watch the show…

            • Julian says:

              Lets reward ourselves with a little “sit back” and toke after our work is done. Now is the time for NORML recruitment and activism. Petition our Senators and protest these nominations. Donate to NORML and the DPA. Contact our local legislators to continue progress at the state and local levels, and yes, that includes our Republican representatives who still have a moral compass for what is left of our Democracy under the incoming DOJ/Russian coup. These are not times to remain silent. There are those who with our support will respond with resistance to the Trump incursion. But only with our active participation and common good can we proceed forward.

        • Anonymous says:

          Delusional,,,, Why do we now have 29 medical states and 8 legal plus DC.
          Why are dispensaries no longer raided.
          Oh and that states rights thing. Lets ask Republican gov Asia Hutchinson of Arkansas which just somehow voted med.
          “This does not call for a state-by-state solution, it calls for a national solution.”
          Now who’s delusional

          • Steve says:

            So why didn’t Obama remove or reschedule cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act when he had the chance? I hear lots of talk. Might as well wait and see what happens next.

        • El Stevo Loco says:

          Leaving it up to the states is that which Obama did–he might have more helpful to Hillary if he had been more of an advocate for legalization — after all look at her margin in California where legalization was on the ballot.
          Trump has now set upon a course to eliminate much of our environmental protections and has put a gaggle of the reactionary Generals and others into his proposed cabinet–States may have to fight to keep their gains. He has neither a majority nor a plurality behind him.

      • Jim alabama says:

        Yup. Newest escalation of the drug war no matter what the cost. 911 was an escuse to ramp it up further.

        Anyone who watches news and documentaries about border security and “homeland security” since have hopefully noticed all the new people and taxpayer money being spent are for the drug war. Dogs at our southern border and ports are drug dogs. Not explosives or biochem trained. No radiation detectors either.

        So many died on 9/11 and their deaths have mainly been used to spend, spend, spend on the drug war. Not prevention of future such.

        If Americans had a clue just how much we are truly spending on the drug war and prisons etc………

    2. Cat Cassie says:

      That’s good he wants to help after he leaves office but it seems Trump wants to go against everything President Obama has done period no matter what it is. Sure hope this doesn’t backfire on us.

    3. James says:

      And of course like all presidents he’s on the way out when saying this. Go figure

    4. Jeedi says:

      I just love President Obama. We will look back in 4 years and cry that he is gone. He did so many great things for us that many don’t realize.

      The only thing holding dispensaries from getting raided is the 2011 memo to Holder. This has been the first real Federal step. Folks have to realize that President Obama has been under attack since he took office. His peaceful vision of ending the wars and closing Gitmo was crushed by the establishment.

      Obamacare is without a doubt the best thing to happen to poorer Americans. What Trump failed to tell the people is even though premiums went up as much as 100% for 2017, the Govt still covered the premium so that the people get it free or for a small amount.

      I only hope that the momentum from 2016 will slow down an attorney general Sessions from going after dispensaries by the masses. Unless President Elect Trump secretly plans to leave marijuana alone, the only other reason we have not heard much from him is because he is planning a crackdown. His supporters although probably many marijuana consumers, the bulk of which want a police state crackdown where pot smoking hippies do NOT protest. Anybody remember Nixon? Trump five letters both republicans, see any synchronicities?

      To say the least I am concerned for the future of legal marijuana until we hear that President Trump wants to leave it up to the states. But folks got to remember Trump does not drink or do anything else and his brother died of drugs. So it is conceivable that Trump wants to go Reagan War on Drugs 2.0.

      You know what the media is going to say when marijuana sympathizers end up in the news when Trump’s crackdown is in full swing, “that is why elections matter.” Get used to it, I’m afraid….

      • TheOracle says:

        I agree that elections matter. Exactly. The American people have voted and legalized cannabis. The direction of the nation is to legalize cannabis. I love Barry, voted for him twice, however can hardly give him credit for leading the charge by having the DEA de-schedule cannabis. Some memoranda called off the prohibitionist dawgz BECAUSE that’s what the cannabis community wanted, wanted more but that’s about all they got. It’s not nothing; it’s definitely something. President-elect Trump should respect the states that have legalized, and not waste money and human resources on cracking down. If Mr. Trump wants people who didn’t vote for him to respect the results of the election, in my humble opinion he absolutely must respect the results of elections that have legalized, as well as the voting process that takes place in the states’ legislatures to legalize. There is no way to convince me it’s justifiable to spend any money on cannabis prohibition when that money is better spent on something else that improves the employment situation and chances for you, your family and neighbors, for everybody somehow. I would not like to see cannabis revenues feeding the federal government while it wages another full throttle military campaign, outright war, somewhere. That’s a lot of spending, again, whose money–public money could be used to built up the U.S.

        The Don needs to go to Camp David or someplace where he can’t Tweet and can be out of the media spotlight until he can be spoonfed what to say and told what not say. Convince him to legalize.

        • Jeedi says:

          Dear Oracle,

          I don’t think President elect Trump can be “…spoonfed what to say and told what not say.” This man is off the rails. Plus he is going to have his hands busy. He will not care about legal marijuana, and most likely want to exploit the Federal money machine that goes with busts and seizures. After all your ole “Don” is all about law and order. And this is a business.

          Just look at his latest blunder that has very much insulted China. Not only was he dissing China all thru his campaign about how he was going to make them pay, and tear up bad deals, but then first thing out the gate going against the “One China” policy. But even worse talks about “arms deals.” Now he is owning it by not apologizing and making it out like it is no big deal? This man is going to have his hands full! He will not have time for marijuana, he will leave it up to his attorney general Sessions, who might just as have confederate flags painted on top of his police cars and bust wagons. I don’t know about other marijuana consumers/patients, but this guy, and his hard nose bunch of picks scares the living bleep out of me.

          If you are one of his supporters, and I find it hard to understand how someone who is smart enough to expand their mind and reap health benefits with marijuana, would vote for this man, please, please go to the “Don” and tell him that he needs to support marijuana legalization with a tweet. But I bet everybody who uses pot and voted for this guy are going to hate themselves for it in a year or so. I hope, dear Oracle, that I am wrong. But for now I will be patient and accept that he will be the next president.

    5. krampus says:

      Obamas marijuana prohibition inaction. Was vital to get trump into the white house …because not many people think Hillary would ever legalize it and trump will eventually see all the money to be made by legalizing and thus will likely “change his tune”

      • Mark Mitcham says:

        That’s highly unlikely.

        Trump ran to increase his personal wealth, because it’s the only reason he does anything. It’s his only guiding principle, other than pussy-grabbing.

        There’s always been more money to be made from prohibition than from legalization — that’s why it won’t die! Trump has surrounded himself with Drug War Profiteers. Marijuana Legalization is ultimately a social justice issue, and that is something about which Trump does not give one teeny tiny little fuck. Further, Trump’s own personal wealth is more likely to be financially tied to prohibition than legalization, directly or indirectly. Given all that, why would he “change his tune?”

        I suspect you’re in for a rude awakening!

      • Anonymous says:

        Inaction,,, He allowed Medical to go forward in the 25 states,,, He allowed 4 states to legalize recreation. He blocked Republican attempts to expand Drug testing. He admitted to his own marijuana use without the standard : Didn’t inhale, only did it once, didn’t like it, worst mistake of my life Rap that’s been the standard for politicians of both parties since we started electing people born since WWII.
        And If Congress would have passed a legalization bill,,, I believe 100% he would have signed it. Wasn’t going to happen with a Republican Congress.
        Republicans who toke up,,, make a choice, you can’t have both.

    6. Gene says:

      Just another politician kicking the can down the road??

    7. fireweed says:

      wow, I like Obama and have always supported him but he’s really letting me down on this. why can’t he just sign an executive order on his way out?

      • Anonymous says:

        Because Trump promised to repeal all of his executive orders… progress has been put on hold for 4 years and the Republicans are going to try to undo it.. are you going to let them…
        Repeal and Replace the Republican Party.

      • Synth8 says:

        The only way to protect the industry from Trump’s cadre of snakes is for congressional action.. and action done right now. An executive order is cancelable on day 1 of the new administration, just like the Cole memo which is expected to be quashed also on day one. Trump let it slip out that every exective order, memo, and such were going to be immediately repealed on day one. I’m expecting the industry and legalization movement to be shocked into paralysis on day 2 of the Trump administration, especially after hearing how he’s in alignment with the Philippine’s psychopathic president Duarte’s drug control actions.

        • Mark Mitcham says:

          Right. These propaganda-spewing Trump supporters are either deliberately making this shit up for “us” leftie, pinko commie types (sarcasm intended); or, perhaps those with functional brain-matter will realize they’ve been betrayed, and support different representative; or, perhaps they actually believe their own bullshit and will never come around — remember, they’ve officially (via Trump’s spokesperson) announced that facts no longer matter. (No shit! That happened. That amounts to spitting in our faces. There’s no more facade, only raw power now.)

          Which means we must resist, and overcome.

        • Evening Bud says:

          Tho I don’t mean to pile on drumpf before he actually does something tragic in regard to legalization, I have to say that I’ve already noticed a pattern with the trumpetistas on this forum:

          these same posters who still moan and gripe about Obama not rushing ahead on legalization, seem to have their bars set much lower for drumpf. I haven’t read one post from the trumpetistas DEMANDING that he legalize, but instead tepid assurances that he’ll allow the states to continue on with the experiments.

          Interesting how the standards and expectations are so different once they have their boy in the white house. DEMANDS for legalization and expressions of self-righteous indignation curiously transform into “he, uh, he’ll . . . be stupid if he cracks down, uh uh. He, uh, he won’t . . . uh, uh.”

          • Julian says:

            You nailed it. I call it fake news amnesia. Some people get so used to eating $#!+ theyre just trolling around to find partners in crime. Trump supporters know theyre eating lies but theyre on the Fox news team, and everyone is going to get a tax break, and be in the rich boy’s club, right?
            We all know intuitively Trump is going to fu€k things up royally the day he takes office, but beyond his fascist, nationalist/populous AG and Sec. of Health nominations, even worse, Trump is inviting Phillipine President Duterte to the white house. This treasonous act of authoritarian embolding of a mass murderer in the name of a drug war must be met with great yet peaceful protest. Already dictators in Russia and Syria are becoming emboldened by a Trump presidency. Trumps emoluments from India to Argentina cannot be physically undone. Trump is a fascist demagogue who accepts influence and gifts from foreign heads of state through expedited construction permits, rental agreements from Trump hotels, and now the treasonous endorsement of mass killings in the name of the war on drugs. Trump is everything our forefathers warned us about when Hamilton wrote The Federalist papers, and explained the reasoning for the electorate’s existence. Whether Republican, Democrat or Independent, everyone must look beyond the smoke and mirrors of “liberal” or “conservative” labels to see that our Democratic Republic is at imminent risk of failure. Preventing that will require massive, relentless grassroots activism.

          • Mark Mitcham says:

            Evening Bud,
            You make a good point about the fact that this is all speculation, and I appreciate the opportunity to affirm that point: none of us anti-Sessions types are claiming to know with certainty what the future holds. Nobody can do that.

            What we are doing is looking at the evidence, and making the best assessment we can. And the outlook is grim. But anything is possible. Maybe Sessions will try marijuana for scientific, experimental purposes and become a flower-child — and unilaterally free the weed. He’ll be all peace signs, love beads, and interracial love and harmony! Maybe. But does the evidence suggest that? No. But I’d be thrilled if it happened. And I would happily admit I’d been wrong, if it did!

            The problem with these pro-Trump trolls on this blog is that they’re still trying to sell the idea that Trump and Sessions are NOT hostile to legal marijuana, when the evidence suggests otherwise. That’s deceptive, and insulting. To quote an old saying, “Don’t piss down our backs and tell us it’s raining!”

    8. Galileo Galilei says:

      I can’t think of anything that would expand revenue, lower expenditures, improve public safety, improve medicine in general and the heroin epidemic in particular, lessen government involvement in our lives, and so forth than reform of the marijuana laws.

      Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that a good sativa works a damn site better than Viagra, too.

    9. Mark Mitcham says:

      While it’s fair to wonder why “Obama believes he will have greater opportunities to address cannabis policy as a private citizen than he did as President,” still let us not overlook the significance of a sitting President using the term “we” in reference to the marijuana legalization movement!

      It’s historical, at a minimum; and as to how much help he could help — I would imagine quite a lot. Let’s respectfully accept that offer!

      It’s fair to wonder why he didn’t do more, but it’s also fair to be grateful for the tolerance he shows us as sitting President (I have a feeling we’re going to miss that in a big way in the next few years!)

      If and when I get the chance to sit down with President Obama and smoke a bowl, I’d be very interested to hear his thoughts on the matter; but in the meantime, I suggest we not be rude and welcome him with open arms.

      And if any white supremacist Trump supporter has a problem with the company, then don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out of the room.

      • Anonymous says:

        It’s unfortunate but true.. marijuana is NOT one of those issues that causes people to vote across party lines…
        And whatever Trump does or doesn’t say on any issue, it is now a Republican dominated congress and soon Supreme Court.
        Republicans and Weed, make a choice, you can’t have both.

      • Evening Bud says:


        You’ve got to consider that a lot of these people who are belly-aching about Obama being more vocal as he’s going out the door, the same ones who belly-ached about Mexico’s Vincente Fox being more vocal about legalization after he was no longer Mexico’s president, and the same people who belly-ached when Nancy Pelosi supported Colorado’s and Washington’s legalization several years ago.

        These same people never hold GOPers to the same standards; these same people are more interested in partisan attacks than legalization. If they weren’t, they would be cheering Obama’s lack of interference with the legalization of the eight states. They are, in a word (two words): Raging hypocrites.

    10. Mark Mitcham says:

      Here’s a quick and easy link you can use to contact your Senators, and urge them to oppose the Jeff Sessions nomination for Attorney General:


      • Evening Bud says:


        I’ve called my two Democratic Senators, Udall and Heinrich, twice since the election. Among the issues I discussed with their office persons were MJ legalization. I got favorable reactions from both offices.