Obama on Marijuana: "We're Not Going To Spend A Lot Of Resources To Turn Back Decisions Made At The State Level"

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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, what you're seeing now is Colorado, Washington -- through state referendum-- they're experimenting with legal marijuana. The position of my administration has been: We still have federal laws, that classify marijuana as an illegal substance, but we're not going to spend a lot of resources trying to turn back decisions that have been made at the state level on this issue.

My suspicion is that you are going to see other states start looking at this, what I am doing at the federal level is to ask the Department of Justice. just generally, to look at how we are treating non-violent drug offenders. Because I think you are right, what we have done is instead of focusing on treatment, the same way we have done with tobacco, or drunk driving or other problems where we treat it as a public health problem, we treat it as a criminal problem, which has been counterproductive and devastating in a lot of minority communities.

It presents the possibility of unequal application of the law, and that has to be changed. The good news is we are starting to get same interest among Republicans as well as among Democrats on reforming the criminal justice system. We have been able to institute some changes administratively and last year was the first time in 40 years that the crime rate and incarceration rate went down at the same time. I hope we can continue with these trends. There is a smarter way of dealing with these issues.

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