A TV creator criticizes a 44-year-old U.S. policy to the president's face, and Obama mostly agrees.
"The way we treat non-violent drug crimes is problematic, and from a fiscal perspective, it's breaking the bank."
"It's draconian, and it doesn't work," Simon told the president.
That was "The Wire" creator David Simon in a video posted to the White House YouTube channel about the war on drugs. Simon and President Barack Obama engaged in a candid, personal conversation.
Simon spent years as a Baltimore police reporter before he began writing for TV. His experience makes him uniquely qualified to have this kind of discussion.
There was something special about this meeting. After all, it's not everyday that a sitting president invites someone to the White House to criticize a 44-year-old national policy.
Though "The Wire" wrapped up its final season before Obama took office, its commentary on the effect of the war on drugs is as relevant as ever.
The series gave viewers a look inside the world of crime and presented it in a way much less black and white than other shows; the line between good and evil was especially blurry. In Simon's world, corruption was everywhere, including the police.
With so many highly publicized cases of police brutality and killing of unarmed black men going on, it's really easy to begin to see reality leak through the show's fiction.
When he was a state legislator, Obama noticed the negative side effects brought on by the war on drugs.
Instead of rehabilitating criminals, the current system is set up to make people even more likely to commit a crime once they're released. It's broken.
Simon spoke frankly, telling the president that the current system places offenders as "permanently part of the other America and can't be pulled back."
After being released from prison, many people convicted of crimes find that their pre-prison lives have been pretty much washed away. This isn't exactly an ideal way to rehabilitate and reintegrate people back into society. But that's kind of the point: The war on drugs is about locking people up for as long as possible and isn't usually all that concerned about in what condition people are released back.
There are arguments from both the political left and right for putting an end to the drug war.
The current system is ethically dubious, unfairly targets people of color, ineffective, and unbelievably costly. Though Democrats and Republicans alike have criticized the policy, it remains in place.
"What we're doing is counterproductive," Obama said, noting that we spend so much time and money keeping non-violent drug offenders in jail rather than focusing on education.
If so many agree this isn't working, why don't we change it?
From an administrative point of view, President Obama says that Attorney General Eric Holder has been working with prosecutors and their offices in an effort to change how they prosecute these crimes. However, he concedes that unless Congress takes action on their end, things aren't likely to change.
"Ultimately, we're going to need legislation, and that's where awareness comes in handy," he said.