In an interview with Rolling Stone published November 29, Barack Obama said that he doesn’t think legalizing marijuana would end America’s drug problem, but he believes it should be regulated like cigarettes and alcohol. The outgoing President added that regulating marijuana is a wiser way of handling the issue than continuing to treat it as a Schedule I drug. 
“Look, I’ve been very clear about my belief that we should try to discourage substance abuse. 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.”
As you might recall, back in 2014, Obama told The New Yorker that he believed marijuana was no more dangerous than alcohol. In fact, he said pot is less dangerous “in terms of its impact on the consumer.” He added that “we should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing.”
The Commander-in-Chief, who admitted to Rolling Stone that he is “very much in lame-duck status,” said that changing classifications is typically up the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) or accomplished through legislative action; the President simply doesn’t alter drug laws by edict. Yet, he told the publication 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 compared state marijuana laws to the state same-sex marriage laws that existed before it was legalized nationwide. Without coming out and urging patience on the part of pot advocates, Obama certainly implied it, suggesting that state laws often set the precedent for the nation. He said:
“There’s something to this whole states-being-laboratories-of-democracy and an evolutionary approach. You now have about a fifth of the country where this is legal.”
Pot is currently legal in some form in 28 states. However, over the summer, the DEA said it would not reschedule marijuana, so cannabis remains as Schedule I – ridiculously – alongside heroin and LSD.
OK, so the POTUS (President of the United States) doesn’t just “declare” that a drug has been rescheduled or legalized throughout the land…but that doesn’t mean the Leader of the Free World can’t push the agenda and enact changes that eventually lead to 1 or both outcomes. Once again comparing marijuana legalization to the legalization of same-sex marriage, Obama explained:
“If you will recall, what happened was, first, very systematically, I changed laws around hospital visitation for people who were same-sex partners. I then assigned the Pentagon to do a study on getting rid of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which then got the buy-in of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and we were then able to [repeal] “don’t ask, don’t tell.” We then filed a brief on Proposition 8 out in California. And then, after a lot of groundwork was laid, then I took a position.”
Obama made his opinions on the subject clear, but didn’t take much action during his 8 years in office, much to the frustration of marijuana advocates, including Tom Angell of the pro-legalization group Marijuana Majority. Angell said:
“It would have been very helpful if he had taken more concrete positive action on this issue before it was almost time to vacate the Oval Office. That this president didn’t apply pressure on the DEA to reschedule marijuana this year will likely go down as one of the biggest disappointments of the Obama era.”
With less than 2 months left in the Oval Office, chances are slim that Obama will take any action or apply any pressure to the DEA this late in the game. That doesn’t mean we’ve heard the last from him on legalization, however. He said:
“I will have the opportunity as a private citizen to describe where I think we need to go. This is a debate that is now ripe, much in the same way that we ended up making progress on same-sex marriage.”
 Rolling Stone
Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.