The president’s past drug use is public knowledge: he's smoked marijuana. But his recent assertion that pot is not “more dangerous than alcohol” is turning lots of heads:
President Obama says marijuana use is no more dangerous than alcohol, though he regards it as a bad habit he hopes his children will avoid.
"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,'' he said in a magazine interview. "I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol."
He said marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol "in terms of its impact on the individual consumer.''
"It's not something I encourage, and I've told my daughters I think it's a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy," he said.
Obama made his remarks in a series of interviews with The New Yorker, which published a story about the conversations in its Jan. 27 issue and on its website.
Some are vigorously disputing this claim. Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), for example, said on MSNBC last night that the president is “wrong,” in part because THC levels in marijuana are much higher today than they were when the president was tokin’ up:
Nonetheless, Barack Obama used marijuana recreationally as a kid and…later became president of the United States. Thus those in favor of pot legalization will presumably use this as an obvious example of how marijuana can be enjoyed recreationally and without long-term negative consequences.The president, meanwhile, also implicitly conceded in that interview that the drug war isn’t really working; countless “poor kids,” he said, have been arrested and had their lives ruined for possessing and smoking marijuana -- while “middle-class kids” routinely get off scot-free:
"Middle-class kids don't get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do," he said. "And African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties.
"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,'' he said.
That's certainly true. But I can’t imagine legalizing marijuana at the federal level will be a good thing for our country, either. As pointed out in the video, it is a dangerous and addictive drug that if legalized will make drug usage more socially acceptable and widespread. Do we really want that? But at the same time if the president is right and marijuana is indeed less harmful than alcohol, why does the government trust us to ingest some forms of intoxicants and not others? Isn't it therefore time to modernize -- or at least relax -- some of our drugs laws? Hmmmm.