Obama: Marijuana is ‘less dangerous’ than booze, state legalization must ‘go forward’
President Obama gave an interview to The New Yorker for editor David Remnick’s monster profile in the January 27 issue. If you’ve got nothing else to do today you can read the whole thing here—he talks about all manner of life in the second term, but Remnick drew out a particularly juicy answer on marijuana legalization.
“I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol,” the president says. “As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life.”
A recent poll found the majority of Americans think pot is less dangerous than alcohol. Obama concurs.
“Is it less dangerous?” Remnick asks.
“Less dangerous, he said, ‘in terms of its impact on the individual consumer.’”
Obama continues to discuss the recent state laws to legalize marijuana for recreational use:
He said, “we should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing.” Accordingly, he said of the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington that “it’s important for it to go forward because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished.”
Remnick describes Obama as “less eager to evolve with any dispatch” than he was on marriage equality, and no wonder—in his first term the Obama Administration proved more aggressive in its war on marijuana than the Bush Administration. But with just two states having legalized marijuana recreationally and Washington DC now considering it, Obama does seem willing to point out the hypocrisy of sending the underprivileged to jail en masse for using a substance that nearly everyone, including our legislators, has used. Especially one which has been proven no more harmful than the alcohol—less harmful if you ask the president.
Or maybe he just sees the writing on the wall—once momentum starts building on an issue state by state, you don’t want to be on the wrong side of history. The president seems to be coming out as a hesitant advocate for legalization. It’s times like these that the wisdom of states’ rights shows itself loud and clear.