In Vice interview, Obama offers muted enthusiasm for decriminalizing marijuana

President Obama speaks with Vice News about marijuana, other issues
(Image credit: Vice News)

Vice founder Shane Smith saved the top-requested question for last in his high-profile interview with President Obama: What about legalizing weed? "For young people, I'm sorry, but if you legalize marijuana, it would be the biggest part of your legacy," Smith told the president.

"Well, first of all, it shouldn't be youngest people's biggest priority," Obama began, noting that he gets the same question at "But let's put this in perspective: Young people, I understand that this is important to you but, you know, you should be thinking about climate change, the economy, jobs, war, and peace. Maybe way at the bottom you should be thinking about marijuana." Obama also noted the downsides of addiction and worried about seeming to encourage marijuana use.

At the same time, the president sounded pretty positive about decriminalizing marijuana, arguing that it would lower the non-violent incarceration rate, help minority communities, and save states a ton of money. He even saw some bipartisan support for decriminalization at the federal level: "At a certain point, if enough states end up decriminalizing, then Congress may then reschedule marijuana" as a less-illegal controlled substance, a move he seemed to favor.

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The entire 18-minute interview is interesting, covering foreign policy, partisan gridlock, why he feels sorry for the 47 Republican senators who wrote that letter to Iran, and other issues. But if you just want to watch the marijuana comments, skip ahead to 14:21. —Peter Weber

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.