The Slatest

Obama Voices Support for Medical Marijuana in Cable News Interview

A photo of President Barack Obama is seen on the cover of the magazine Cannabis Now at the HempCon medical marijuana show on May 24, 2013 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.  

Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama offered support for decriminalizing medical marijuana, as well as an overall change in the way the country deals with drug offenders, during an interview scheduled to air on Sunday night as part of a CNN special on marijuana. Obama talked to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the network’s chief medical correspondent, for his documentary Weed 3: The Marijuana Revolution, which will air Sunday night.

In the interview, Gupta asks Obama whether he supports a Senate bill that would change the classification of marijuana and prohibit the federal government from targeting state-approved medical marijuana programs. According to a Huffington Post preview of the program, Obama 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.”

He also said the way in which the country has been able to reduce tobacco use should be seen as a model.

“One of the great victories of this country has been our ability to reduce incidences of smoking, increase the incidences of seat belt use,” Obama told Gupta. “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.”

Gupta has acknowledged he was wrong to be skeptical about medical marijuana in the past and has now turned into an advocate of legalization. “On its own merits, this is a substance out there that could address significant problems in this country,” Gupta told the Wrap.

“I think he does,” Gupta said when asked if Obama wanted to legalize medical marijuana across the country.

Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority, told the Daily Caller that if Obama really does believe that, he needs to go further.

“If the president means what he says about following science, then there’s no question he should support legislation to move marijuana out of Schedule I, a category that’s supposed to be reserved for substances with no medical value,” Angell said. “And, since it’s so hard to get anything through Congress these days, he should even do more than that. He should exercise his power under the Controlled Substances Act to administratively reschedule marijuana right away.”