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OBAMA: It’s ‘untenable’ for government to enforce ‘a patchwork of laws’ on marijuana

Barack Obama called for re-thinking the federal government’s stance on marijuana, and said that the drug should be treated as a “public health” issue, in a recent interview with The Rolling Stone.

“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,” Obama told The Rolling Stone’s Jann Wenner.

Obama said that while he doesn’t believe that legalization is a “panacea,” he thinks that marijuana should be treated as a public health issue similar to cigarettes and alcohol.

There’s already a thriving commercial market for marijuana in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, and seven more states, including California, voted to legalize marijuana in various forms on November 8.

At the federal level, however, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug, meaning that it has no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.

Obama stressed that whatever his position, de-scheduling marijuana is not something he can do by “presidential edict.”

“Typically how these classifications are changed are not done by presidential edict but are done either legislatively or through the DEA,” Obama said. ” As you might imagine, the DEA, whose job it is historically to enforce drug laws, is not always going to be on the cutting edge about these issues.”

The DEA passed up the opportunity to re-schedule marijuana in August, after they were forced to respond to a widely-circulated petition.

Obama likened the debate around marijuana reform to same-sex marriage — change happens incrementally at first.

“There’s something to this whole states-being-laboratories-of-democracy and an evolutionary approach,” Obama said. “You now have about a fifth of the country where this is legal.”

While marijuana advocates welcomed Obama’s comments, some say he should have taken more action on the issue during his presidency.

“I t would have been very helpful if he had taken more concrete positive action on this issue before it was almost time to vacate the Oval Office,” Tom Angell, of the pro-legalization group Marijuana Majority told Business Insider. “T hat this president didn’t apply pressure on the DEA to reschedule marijuana this year will likely go down as one of the biggest disappointments of the Obama era.”

Groups on the other side of the debate point to Trump’s pick for secretary of health and human services, Tom Price, as evidence that the president-elect will not make any moves to soften the federal government’s stance on marijuana reform.

“I t appears that Trump is picking people who are pretty anti-marijuana,” Kevin Sabet, the president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana told Business Insider. ” HHS [health and human services] plays a big role in drug prevention and I think that what we need is more awareness and prevention around marijuana, so this pick is encouraging.”

Obama, for his part, said that he’ll use his profile as a private citizen to move the needle on marijuana reform after he leaves office.

” I will have the opportunity as a private citizen to describe where I think we need to go,” Obama told The Rolling Stone. “T his is a debate that is now ripe, much in the same way that we ended up making progress on same-sex marriage.”

Obama said that marijuana should be treated as a public health issue similar to cigarettes and alcohol.

Obama talks smoking weed with college students

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Barack Obama has been partying like a rock star since he left the White House.

He has spent the last few months kite-boarding with a billionaire off the coast of a private island, hanging around on a superyacht in Tahiti with more billionaires and rock stars and megacelebrities and, we’re assuming, furnishing his five homes spread across the U.S.

But you know Barack Obama: He just can’t stay out of the spotlight. And so, on Monday, Mr. Obama showed up for his first big event since leaving office in January. He participated in a discussion with students at the University of Chicago, where he was once a visiting professor teaching constitutional law. The avuncular Mr. Obama sat cross-legged on stage with a half-dozen young people, musing about life, politics — and smoking weed.

“I would advise all of you to be a little more circumspect about your selfies,” Mr. Obama said to laughter (even though he was known to take a LOT of selfies).

“If you had pictures of everything I’d done when I was in high school, I probably wouldn’t have been president of the United States,” he said.

And then he segued into his days as a pothead in a group called the Choom Gang. Lest you forget, David Maraniss’ biography “Barack Obama: The Story” details Mr. Obama‘s days of smoking marijuana with his friends in Honolulu.

Mr. Obama‘s friend Mark Bendix often served as chauffeur in his Volkswagen minibus, known as “the Choomwagon.” The group of teens would head off to Mount Tantalus, where they parked, “turned up their stereos playing Aerosmith, Blue Oyster Cult and Stevie Wonder, lit up some ‘sweet-sticky Hawaiian buds’ and washed it down with ‘green bottled beer’ (the Choom Gang preferred Heineken, Becks, and St. Pauli Girl).” Good times.

Mr. Maraniss writes that Mr. Obama was a champion weed smoker. “When they were chooming in a car all the windows had to be rolled up so no smoke blew out and went to waste; when the pot was gone, they tilted their heads back and sucked in the last bit of smoke from the ceiling.”

And Mr. Obama inspired the goal of “Total Absorption,” or “TA.”

“TA was the opposite of Bill Clinton’s claim that as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford he smoked dope but never inhaled,” Mr. Maraniss wrote. When it was your turn to hit the joint, if you exhaled early, “you were assessed a penalty and your turn was skipped the next time the joint came around.”

So it was interesting that on Monday, Mr. Obama warned kids not to photograph themselves too much because “everything’s searchable.”

Recalling his autobiography “Dreams From My Father,” Mr. Obama said, “Because I had been pretty honest about the struggles I went though as a young man, uh, when I ran for office and there was some big reveal about, ‘Oh, the guy smoked pot,’ it’s like, ‘Yeah, no, it’s in my book,’” he said to laughter and applause. “I, I, I, and, and, and, I, I learned from that, I, I, I didn’t sugarcoat it. I didn’t suggest that somehow it had been, uh, you know, something that I recommend for everybody.

“But that’s what teenage kids did at that age when I was where I was growing up. Not everybody. Some were wiser than me. I wasn’t that wise.”

Ah, but Mr. Obama was there to make sure that young people know they can smoke weed — and still become president. It worked for him, right? Such a good role model.

• Joseph Curl has covered politics for 25 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent at The Washington Times. He also ran the Drudge Report as morning editor for four years. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter [email protected]

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Barack Obama has been partying like a rock star since he left the White House.