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Obama: Legalizing Marijuana Should Be "Way At The Bottom" Of Young Voters' Priority Lists

"There is a legitimate, I think, concern about the overall effects this has on society, particularly vulnerable parts of our society."

Posted on March 16, 2015, at 5:16 p.m. ET

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WASHINGTON — Young voters hell-bent on legalizing pot have their priorities out of whack, according to President Obama.

"First of all it shouldn't be young people's biggest priority," Obama told Vice in an interview that posted Monday. "Let's put it in perspective. 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."

Obama pushed back on the notion that legalizing pot would solve more problems than it would create.

"I always say to folks, legalization or decriminalization is not a panacea," Obama said. "Do you feel the same way about meth? Do we feel the same way about coke? How about crack? How about heroin? There is a legitimate, I think, concern about the overall effects this has on society, particularly vulnerable parts of our society."

In some of his most extensive comments about legalization, Obama said advocates should draw a distinction between legalization and decriminalization. The growing bipartisan cry for criminal justice advocacy is building momentum for decriminalization across the country.

"Substance abuse generally, legal and illegal substances, is a problem," Obama said. "Locking somebody up for 20 years is probably not the best strategy."

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.