Landing an interview with President Obama is a pretty big deal. Once you pass the Secret Service screening and get your confirmed appointment, it's time to start editing down your hundreds of questions and make sure you get the very best out of your (probably small) time slot.
So, it just makes sense that when VICE recently got a sit-down with the Commander in Chief, they opened with the #1 most suggested topic from their viewers: pot.
"It shouldn’t be young people’s biggest priority," the seemingly disappointed President said during the interview, noting that pot is also one of the most asked-about topics on the White House website. "Let’s put it in perspective. Young people, I understand this is important to you, but you should be thinking about climate change, the economy, jobs, war and peace. Maybe way at the bottom you should be thinking about marijuana."
(Marijuana question begins at 14:22)
The president also touched on Republicans, ISIS, climate change and Iran, but when it comes to marijuana legalization, Obama said he isn't on that slowly rolling path to legitimacy.
"We may be able to make some progress on the decriminalization side. At a certain point, if enough states end up decriminalizing, then Congress may then reschedule marijuana," Obama said.
"I’d separate out the issue of the criminalization of marijuana from encouraging its use. Our criminal justice system is so heavily skewed toward cracking down on non-violent drug offenders that it has not just had a terrible on effect on many communities — particularly communities of color, rendering a lot of folks unemployable because they got a felony record from disproportionate prison sentences — it costs a huge amount of money to the states and a lot of states are starting to figure that out."
Though he's encouraged that both liberal Democrats and some "very conservative" Republicans are starting to see that something needs to be done about the legacy of locking up non-violent drug offenders, decriminalizing pot is not the cure-all.
"Legalization is not a panacea," Obama said, noting that progress could be made on decriminalizing. But "locking somebody up for 20 years is probably not the best strategy." According to the San Francisco Chronicle's Smell the Truth blog, about 700,000 Americans will be arrested for pot this year, with the majority of them young people.