WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama has said that American states could overhaul their laws to discourage marijuana the same way people have been persuaded not to consume "bad things" like tobacco.
His comments came the same day Washington State implemented a new law decriminalising the use of small amounts of marijuana over the objections of some Republicans.
"I think that we have to separate out legalisation -- there's a lot of concern about drug abuse of any sort by our children and the general population -- versus the heavy criminalisation of non-violent drug offenses," Obama said.
"And I think that a lot of states are taking a look to see, do we have proportionality in terms of how we are penalising the recreational user," Obama told Kansas City- based KMBC TV.
"We've been able to discourage a lot of other bad things that people do," CNN quoted Obama as saying, citing success in discouraging the use of other harmful products like tobacco without stiff jail sentences.
"I think that's what every state across the country, including some very conservative states that don't have a lot of tolerance for marijuana, are looking at," Obama said, "is do we want to be throwing people in jail for five, 10, 15 years if they're not major drug dealers but they're using a substance that's probably not good for them but is probably not hurting too many other people?"
Possession of small amounts of marijuana became legal in the District of Columbia yesterday.
Despite a last-hour intervention by the Republican chairman of the House committee that handles Washington D.C. affairs, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser and D.C. Council members said on Wednesday that they would not back down from implementing the will of the 70 per cent of city voters who approved legalisation in November.