“Let me ask you about a question that I know the people who watch our show are interested in, which is marijuana reform,” Maher asked.
“Is that something that you care about?” Obama joked.
But Maher soon took the conversation in a more serious direction. “We’ve both made jokes about it, but it’s not funny to the people who get arrested, which is over half a million, I think, last year. You and I both could have had our lives ruined, not really by smoking it, but by being arrested for it,” Maher said. “And I feel like you had a checklist about, ‘Let’s get rid of a lot of the stupid stuff.’ Like opening up Cuba. You came out for gay marriage. I was hoping ending the drug war would be on that list …. isn’t it time the federal government caught up to progressive states like Arizona and North Dakota?”
“I have always believed that, to the extent that society legitimately wants to guard against any kind of substance abuse, that you treat it as a public health problem,” Obama said. “That’s where I think we need to go with pot, alcohol. I don’t think that legalization is a panacea, But I think that we’re gonna have to have a more serious conversation about how we are treating marijuana and our drug laws generally.”
Obama went on to opine the federal marijuana prohibition would become untenable as more states legalize marijuana for all adults.