President Barack Obama said states could overhaul their laws to discourage marijuana the same way “we’ve been able to discourage a lot of other bad things that people do” — like using tobacco.
His comments to Kansas City-based KMBC during a series of interviews Thursday afternoon with local television stations, the same day that Washington implemented a new law decriminalizing the use of small amounts of marijuana over the objections of some congressional Republicans.
“I think that we have to separate out legalization — there’s a lot of concern about drug abuse of any sort by our children and the general population — versus the heavy criminalization of non-violent drug offenses,” Obama said. “And I think that a lot of states are taking a look to see, do we have proportionality in terms of how we are penalizing the recreational user.”
He said the United States has managed to discourage the use of other harmful products like tobacco without stiff jail sentences.
“I think that’s what every state across the country, including some very conservative states that don’t have a lot of tolerance for marijuana, are looking at,” Obama said, “is do we want to be throwing people in jail for five, 10, 15 years if they’re not major drug dealers but they’re using a substance that’s probably not good for them but is probably not hurting too many other people?”
Obama also repeated his previous stances on the Keystone XL pipeline, which he recently vetoed after Republicans sought to authorize it before the State Department completes a six-year-old review, and international trade.
He touted his administration’s push for a 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership as a way to correct the labor and environmental lapses of past pacts like the North American Free Trade Agreement. And he said the new deal is an opportunity to keep China from setting international rules with other Pacific Rim countries.