Obama: Legalized pot 'not a panacea'

President Obama cautions that while he supports reforms to decriminalize marijuana, lowering penalties wouldn't be a cure-all for the country's problems with drugs.

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"Legalization or decriminalization is not a panacea. Do you feel the same way about meth? Do we feel the same way about coke? How about crack? How about heroin?" Obama said during an interview with Vice News released Monday.

"There is a legitimate, I think, concern about the overall effects this has on society and particularly vulnerable parts of society. Substance abuse generally, legal and illegal substances, is a problem."

Obama added that "locking somebody up for 20 years probably isn't the best strategy” to combat drug abuse. He said that he supports efforts to decriminalize marijuana, lessening legal penalties associated with it, in order to cut down on the disproportionate amount of poor and minority adults in prison for drug violations.

“I’d separate out the issue of the criminalization of marijuana to encouraging its use," he said.

"I think there’s no doubt that our criminal justice system generally is so heavily skewed towards cracking down on nonviolent drug offenders that it has not just had a terrible effect on many communities, particularly communities of color."

Obama used marijuana himself while in high school and college. He's said that he won't prioritize Justice Department resources towards arresting those possessing the drug in states that have legalized it, and his 2016 federal budget supports Washington, D.C.'s ballot measure that legalized the drug.