He believes it’s a “public-health issue.”
via Flickr user (cc) Katie Spence
Throughout his administration, President Obama has commuted the sentences of over 1,000 prisoners, more than the 11 previous presidents combined. Most of the commutations serve to reverse unnecessarily harsh sentences given to non-violent drug offenders over the past 40 years. The president’s attempts to right the wrongs of the drug war come from his strong belief that drugs should be treated as a public-health issue.
Recently, the outgoing president elaborated on the issue with a Rolling Stone reporter saying, “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.”
Obama also believes that federal marijuana laws are in for a big change after 27 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational and/or medicinal use. “I’ve already said, and as I think I mentioned on Bill Maher’s show, where he asked me about the same issue, that 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 said. “So this is a debate that is now ripe, much in the same way that we ended up making progress on same-sex marriage.”