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Marijuana tops young Americans’ concerns; Obama can’t believe it.

By Chris Roberts |

ISIS, climate change, Mexican cartels, alternative energy — and marijuana. Not in that order.

In case you missed it, VICE’s interview with President Barack Obama went live this week. And while the real story may be how VICE impresario Shane Smith convinced the commander-in-chief to submit to a sit-down — we suspect his self-proclaimed net worth of $1 billion didn’t hurt — the take-away for cannabis reform advocates is that the president can’t believe that marijuana is so important for so many people.

VICE polled its audience base on what Smith ought to ask the president, and cannabis was at the top of the list. This did not sit well with Barry.

“It shouldn’t be young people’s biggest priority,” the president told Smith, as the Atlantic reported.

“Let’s put it in perspective,” he added. “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.”

Here’s the interview in its entirety.

Obama isn’t wrong that there are bigger fish to fry than marijuana. If the climate changes or if California’s water vanishes — two things that are happening right now — there won’t be any cannabis to legalize in the first place.

However, that doesn’t mean that an achievable goal shouldn’t be a priority. And that’s the key: legalizing marijuana, just like legalizing gay marriage, is a matter of social justice that is relatively easy to achieve. Surely easier than fixing income inequality, convincing the likes of the Koch brothers to kick the fossil fuel habit, or heal all the other societal ills that have plagued us from the beginning.

Obama is more reticent. Much worse than preventing people from getting stoned, the president said, is the prison-industrial complex that’s locked up millions of black and brown people in prison and blocked them from accessing opportunity. Fixing cannabis prohibition might sound nice but it won’t be a “panacea,” the president said.

Maybe not. But there’s no reason not to get it done.

It’s worth noting that the president has never been more open or more supportive of marijuana than he has been in the final years of his presidency — except when he was a presidential candidate.