Report: Obama to Make Big Statement on Marijuana

April 19th 2015

President Barack Obama will voice his support of medical marijuana, as well as for adopting alternative methods of drug abuse treatment that steer away from incarceration. 

Obama's interview with CNN's chief medical correspondent and public medical personality Sanjay Gupta will air Sunday in "Weed 3," the third installment of the channel's three-part series on the drug. According to the Daily Caller News Foundation, Gupta, who is a neurosurgeon, will focus on the politics of medical marijuana research in the episode. Last week, Gupta published an impassioned piece calling for a "medical marijuana revolution," which briefly traced the journey marijuana has taken from a scientific stigma to a tool that currently helps millions of Americans treat various ailments ranging from epilepsy to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. "I see a revolution in the attitudes of everyday Americans. For the first time a majority, 53 percent, favor its legalization, with 77 percent supporting it for medical purposes," he wrote.

The Huffington Post notes that Gupta asks Obama about his views on the goals outlined in a landmark Senate bill introduced last month that promotes research, reclassifying the drug to a less dangerous category from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2, and reigning in the federal government's ability to infringe on states with legalized medical marijuana laws. "You know, I think I'd have to take a look at the details," Obama said, "but I'm on record as saying that not only do I think carefully prescribed medical use of marijuana may in fact be appropriate and we should follow the science as opposed to ideology on this issue, but I'm also on record as saying that the more we treat some of these issues related to drug abuse from a public health model and not just from an incarceration model, the better off we're going to be." 

The President continued, citing tobacco laws as a model to look to when crafting a response to drug users that veers away from the punitive approach that has shaped drug policy for decades and has contributed to soaring incarceration for non-violent drug users. 

"One of the great victories of this country has been our ability to reduce incidences of smoking, increase the incidences of seat belt use," he said. "You know, we save tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of lives every single year. We didn't throw anybody in jail; we just made sure that they were well-informed and if somebody has an addiction, we made sure that we made it easy for them to get help. And I think we need to re-emphasize that approach because we don't want to encourage kids to engage in drug use, but there are going to be more effective ways than, too often, the approach we're taking today." 

Obama's comments echo an interview he gave in February to a Kansas City TV station, during which he backed decriminalization efforts as well as suggesting states fall back on the tobacco model to overhaul their laws discouraging marijuana and other drug use. 

"Weed 3: The Marijuana Revolution," will air Sunday on CNN at 9pm ET. 

In the meantime, catch up on ATTN:'s recent coverage of all things marijuana. 

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