President Obama said in a recent interview with Rolling Stone magazine that he believes marijuana should be treated as a public-health issue like cigarettes and alcohol.
While Obama made clear that he believes substance abuse should be discouraged, he argued that the use of marijuana should be seen like smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol.
"I am not somebody who believes that legalization is a panacea," the president said. "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."
Obama repeated his previous support for legalization, but added that the president cannot unilaterally change a drug's classification.
"Typically how these classifications are changed are not done by presidential edict but are done either legislatively or through the DEA," he 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."
Marijuana has been legalized in some from in 26 states and Washington D.C. These states are in direct conflict with the federal government, which considers marijuana a Schedule 1 substance.
"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 Rolling Stone.