• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 52s

Obama: Marijuana not “more dangerous” than alcohol

By Jake Miller / CBS News 2:40 PM January 19, 2014

The president said he’s troubled by racial disparities in the application of marijuana laws and ascribed some element of hypocrisy to lawmakers who’ve stiffened penalties against pot use despite some probable experimentation of their own.

President Obama waded into the controversial politics of marijuana in an interview published Sunday, saying he’s not convinced pot is “more dangerous than alcohol” and arguing it’s “important” to allow recent legalization efforts in Colorado and Washington State to proceed.

“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,” the president told the New Yorker’s David Remnick. “I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”

The president even argued marijuana is less dangerous “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer.”

Still, “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 added.

The president also said he’s troubled by racial disparities in the application of marijuana laws.

“Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do,” he explained. “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.”

Mr. Obama ascribed some element of hypocrisy to lawmakers who’ve stiffened penalties against pot use despite some probable experimentation of their own.

“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,” the president said.

Mr. Obama seemed to welcome recent efforts to legalize the drug for recreational use in Washington and Colorado “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.”

Despite the fact that marijuana use is still illegal under federal law, the government announced in August last year that it would not halt the legalization efforts then underway in those two states – part of an effort to re-prioritize drug enforcement resources.

In the interview, the president also lent credence to opponents of legalization, however, saying advocates of full legalization have likely overstated their case by framing the change as a “panacea” for many social ills.

And he nodded at the “slippery slope” argument commonly voiced by foes of more permissive drug laws, wondering where the line will eventually be drawn.

“When it comes to harder drugs, the harm done to the user is profound and the social costs are profound,” he said. “And you do start getting into some difficult line-drawing issues. If marijuana is fully legalized and at some point folks say, ‘Well, we can come up with a negotiated dose of cocaine that we can show is not any more harmful than vodka,’ are we open to that? If somebody says, ‘We’ve got a finely calibrated dose of meth, it isn’t going to kill you or rot your teeth,’ are we O.K. with that?”

© 2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Latest Stories

  • News

    SmallBizSat: Anchorage business boasts local expertise as key to compete

    by Liz Raines on Nov 28, 19:01

    On Small Business Saturday, locally owned Skinny Raven Sports says it saw a big boost from last year’s sales. “There’s been a lot of feet through the door, which is awesome,” said general manager Ben Stolpman. “It shows that people value small business.” Despite the fact that you can find almost all of the products […]

  • Sports

    At Great AK Shootout, Wiggs lifts Seawolves to 71-65 win over Drexel

    by Jake Edmonds on Nov 28, 14:08

    The University of Alaska Anchorage men’s basketball team earned a second round win in the GCI Great Alaska Shootout Friday, defeating Drexel 71-65. The Seawolves were led by the junior stand-out Suki Wiggs, who had 33 points in the win. Wiggs is proving to be a huge asset for head coach Rusty Osbourne and the […]

  • News

    In Fairbanks, borough suspends ride share payments after no one signs up

    by Associated Press on Nov 28, 12:25

    Residents aren’t getting on board with ride sharing in the Fairbanks North Star Borough. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports (http://bit.ly/1YzWBoS) borough officials and Enterprise Holdings have agreed to suspend payments for a program that no one has signed up for since the company was hired in September 2014. Borough transportation manager Adam Barth says he […]

  • Crime

    Anchorage police seek wanted man, Dajon Hale

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Nov 28, 11:58

    The Anchorage Police Department is asking for the public’s help finding 26-year-old Dajon Hale, who currently has two felony warrants for his arrest. Police say in June, Hale was pulled over for speeding in a construction zone in the area of E. 56th Avenue and Lake Otis Parkway. The officer then discovered Hale was on probation […]

  • News

    Red Cross of Alaska speaks out for Giving Tuesday

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Nov 27, 22:48

    After Thanksgiving, shoppers have a number of opportunities to save big: first there’s Black Friday, then Small Business Saturday and finally, Cyber Monday. Many use the sales in stores and online as a chance to get deals on Christmas presents for their loved ones, but the Red Cross of Alaska says Giving Tuesday is another […]

  • News

    Thousands turn out for Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony in Downtown Anchorage

    by Daniella Rivera on Nov 27, 22:37

    Friday night, thousands packed Town Square Park for the annual AT&T Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony, marking the official start of the holiday season in Anchorage. Alaskans enjoyed free hot cocoa and cookies, kids got to meet Santa Claus and his reindeer, and Alaskans gave back through donations to Toys for Tots. Live music was provided by […]

  • News

    Eagle River women turn to Kickstarter to fund indoor dog park

    by Bonney Bowman on Nov 27, 20:42

    Thousands of Alaskan dog owners know around this time of year it can be tough to get your dog enough exercise. Whether it’s cold and icy or wet and muddy, conditions aren’t always ideal for a long walk. That’s what inspired Alyssa Oehmke and Melanie Wallace to found the Alaska Canine Club, an indoor dog park. […]

  • News

    Locally-owned Anchorage stores brace for ‘Small Business Saturday’

    by Liz Raines on Nov 27, 18:18

    Although Black Friday had a low turnout in Anchorage this year, many local businesses say they’re banking on Saturday sales. “‘Small Business Saturday’ is always the big push, people come out in full force which is awesome, we appreciate that, completely,” said Annie Ciszak Pazar, owner of Bella Boutique in Spenard. “You know they call […]