On Thursday, the POTUS shared his thoughts on decriminalizing cannabis during an interview with YouTube personality Hank Green.
Regarding how the federal government treats the drug, he said:
We’ve treated this exclusively as a criminal problem. I think that it’s been counterproductive, and it’s been devastating in a lot of minority communities. It presents the possibility at least of unequal application of the law, and that has to be changed.
Obama has previously expressed concern about the disproportionate number of arrests faced by minorities who are caught with the drug and frequently said the decriminalization or legalization of marijuana should be decided on the state level. He has also clarified that he doesn’t think marijuana is any more dangerous than alcohol.
Despite the fact that white and black people use marijuana at identical rates, studies have shown that on average African-Americans are four times more likely to be arrested on drug charges involving marijuana — and in states like Iowa or the District of Columbia, they are eight times more likely to be arrested.
In states like Massachusetts, where possession of small amounts of marijuana has been decriminalized since 2009, the arrest rates have dropped drastically — although the racial disparity in who gets arrested still remains.