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Obama signals support for legalizing medical marijuana

Reuters/Jim Young
By Zach Wener-Fligner

2014-15 Fellow. Quartz Things team.

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

In a CNN documentary aired for the first time Sunday night, on the eve of the informal April 20 holiday celebrating cannabis subculture, US president Barack Obama reiterated his support for medicinal use of marijuana and moving towards decriminalization of the drug.

In the documentary, “Weed 3: The Marijuana Revolution,” CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta asked the president if he supported the US Senate’s efforts to recognize the medicinal benefits of marijuana by demoting the drug from a Schedule I classification—reserved for drugs “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse”—to a Schedule II (a category of drugs acknowledged for medical use, with less potential for abuse).

Obama reportedly replied:

“You know, I think I’d have to take a look at the details, 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.”

Obama has gradually eased into floating his views on marijuana legalization, stressing a pragmatic and science-based approach. He has long opposed wanton use of federal resources to pursue marijuana violations, though the country’s Office of National Drug Control Policy web site states that “The Administration steadfastly opposes legalization of marijuana.” In February, he expressed support for removing criminal penalties for non-violent drug offenders, according to ThinkProgress, and has also said that he expects more states to legalize recreational use of marijuana.

As of April 2015, medical marijuana is legal in 23 US states and the District of Columbia. Nine states have pending legislation. Recreational use is legal in four states.

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