CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Actor Kal Penn stumped for President Barack Obama Tuesday night here at the Democratic National Convention, and not surprisingly, the "Harold & Kumar" star steered clear of discussing the incumbent's record on drug policy.
Before his speech, however, the Obama campaign released a video to promote the convention featuring Penn's stoner character from "Harold & Kumar." The video opens with Obama talking on the phone to Penn, who's munching on chips and pizza while watching cartoons with co-star Jon Cho.
Yahoo News caught up with Penn inside the Time Warner Cable Arena after his convention speech and asked about his thoughts on Obama's marijuana policy record. Of course, Penn is an actor and not a marijuana policy activist. But after his appearance in the campaign video, we had to ask.
"I feel like I get this question because of the nature of the movies I'm in, and I know that you wouldn't ask Anthony Hopkins whether he eats people in real life after 'Silence of the Lambs,'" Penn said. "So I'm just going to call you out on that."
Fair enough (although appearing in an Obama video as a stoner makes it fair game.)
"But," he went on to say, "I think that the president's been pretty consistent with that. He's not in favor of legalization, we should be open about something like that. But what the president has done is take a really smart look at the Department of Justice and said, given the fact that the federal government has limited resources, we should be allocating them toward violent criminals and not towards nonviolent criminals. We can see that not just in things like marijuana but in things like immigration reform where he's going after and deporting violent criminals and making sure that if you're a DREAM Act eligible student that you know that you can apply for your deferred status. Wherever the federal government has an appropriate role, I think the president's been very consistent in that. That's something that I think folks should know."
While the Justice Department has made small changes to its drug law enforcement approach, civil libertarians have taken Obama's administration to task for continuing federal prosecution of marijuana dispensaries that operate legally under state laws. In 2004, then-Illinois state Sen. Obama called the "war on drugs" an "utter failure" and called for marijuana to be decriminalized, but he has tread carefully on the issue during his presidency.
When asked if he thought federal policies on marijuana were appropriate, Penn said he didn't know.
"I'm not a marijuana expert," he said. "That's a weird question."