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The curious legal structure of state and federal laws in America has left many around the world with questions about why marijuana is treated with such a wide disparity in different regions.

A set of intriguing questions on the issue was posed to United States President Barack Obama during a recent trip to Jamaica by a geniune Rastafarian in the town hall crowd named Miguel Williams.

ABC News
ABC News

The exchange was originally reported as a funny outtake by Yahoo from an ABC News video but the full version of the video reveals the likely reason that Yahoo declined share the entire clip. The Yahoo article made a joke of a very serious set of questions and left out the most critical parts of the man’s logic, even disrespecting his stated nickname by not capitalizing the first letter.


US President Barack Obama had been on the verdant Caribbean island of Jamaica less than 24 hours — and had already visited Bob Marley’s former home — before he was asked by a dreadlocked Rastafarian about legalizing marijuana.

In a Kingston town hall event, participant Miguel Williams, sporting a “Rasta4life” wrist band, asked the US commander-in-chief if he would become ganja’s champion.

“Give thanks! Yes greetings Mr President,” said Williams, “life and blessings on you and your family.”

“My name is Miguel Williams but you can call I and I ‘[S]teppa’… That is quite sufficient, ya man.”

Unperturbed by giggles from the audience, Williams set forth his case for legalization and decriminalization of the hemp industry and marijuana.

The Rastafari faith includes the spiritual use of cannabis.

“How did I anticipate this question?” was Obama’s joking response. “Well,” he said adding a comic sigh.

“There is the issue of legalization of marijuana and then there is the issue of decriminalizing or dealing with the incarceration in some cases devastation of communities as a consequence of non-violent drug offenses,” Obama said.

“I am a very strong believer that the path that we have taken in the United States in the so-called ‘war on drugs’ has been so heavy in emphasizing incarceration that it has been counterproductive,” he said to some cheers.

But on the question of whether the United States should, in the words of reggae musician Peter Tosh “legalize it” Obama was more circumspect.

“I do not foresee, any time soon, Congress changing the law at a national basis.”

What was skipped by Yahoo is one of the principal questions at the heart of the drug war and an issue of personal liberty for billions around the world.

(Miguel “Steppa” Williams on the island nation’s economic issues relating to the International Monetary Fund)
It really comes on the foreground of, um… we face economic issues with the [ (IMF)] et cetera, and we find realistically that the hemp industry, the marijuana industry provides a highly feasible alternative to rise up out of poverty, so I am wanting to overstand and to understand how US is envisioning, how would you see Jamaica on a decriminalization, legalization emphasis on the hemp industry… Your thoughts… (to crowd applause)

The virtually global prohibition on marijuana is not new and has failed to hide the knowledge that cannabis and hemp can be used for thousands of commercial products and industrial services, not to mention personal use at home.

The question stumped President Obama for about 20 seconds as he formulated his response. Obama started with a nervous explanation of the laws in Washington and Colorado and the distinction between decriminalization, which is focused on ending the prison problem leaving millions with drug convictions that prevent them from getting a job, versus the legalization aspect which enables the legal sale and taxation of the plant. He went on to bend his response towards a cynical message of “reducing demand” for cannabis, as in lowering the amount consumed by the populace, and then trended into talking about problems of addiction and a public health crisis.

Obama largely ignored the issue of economics and poverty, the critical part of the series of questions asked, giving it very little response time in comparison to the long-winded explanation of the simpler concepts. Well played Mr. President, can’t bash the IMF of course, it is counterproductive to the organization’s goals of “government reform” enforced by debt slavery. Obama simply stated that even if cannabis and hemp were legal, multinational corporations would soon dominate the market and freeze out “small and medium” competitors as he framed it.

Obama did mention some positive things about the drug war and eliminating what he called transnational criminal organizations.

He jokingly finished by saying the likely way forward “might not comport with your vision for the future” before saying “time for one more question” as the voice in his earpiece probably suggested. The full version of the video can be seen below.

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