• 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

  • Weather

    Daybreak weather, Oct. 24

    by KTVA Weather on Oct 24, 8:40

    Friday brings a little more cloud coverage along with light rain and snow by afternoon. Clouds will start to fade away as we head into Saturday afternoon with Sunday being the day where sunshine will shine bright. Highs today will be in the upper-30s to low-40s with light winds. A storm system out of the […]

  • News

    End the cycle of violence a key message at AFN

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Oct 24, 8:21

    Violence affects all communities across Alaska in many different ways. It’s often hard to talk about. The Alaska Federation of Natives Convention is one place where people aren’t shying away from the topic. “Be the one to pull your family together and make them stronger. If you are in a bad situation, make it better. […]

  • News

    FBI investigated Guard while Sullivan was attorney general

    by Kate McPherson on Oct 24, 7:36

    Gov. Sean Parnell says he met with Alaska National Guard Adjutant Gen. Thomas Katkus 41 times over a four-year period beginning in 2010 to discuss allegations of sexual assault, fraud and other serious problems within the AKNG. At the time of some of the meetings, Republican Senate candidate Dan Sullivan was the state’s attorney general, […]

  • News

    Alaska Federation of Natives Convention: Day 1

    by Rhonda McBride on Oct 24, 7:00

    The theme of this year’s Alaska Federation of Natives convention, “Rise as One,” reverberated through its opening day on Thursday, in both big and small ways. AFN organizers say the theme is a call to action. At a noon rally outside the Dena’ina Center in downtown Anchorage, marchers chanted, “Free the four. Free the four.” […]

  • News

    Native art fair draws crowds to Dena’ina Center

    by Lauren Maxwell on Oct 23, 22:27

    The Alaska Federation of Natives convention brings Alaska Native leaders from around the state, but it also brings crafters and artisans. For many people, the Alaska Native Customary Art Fair is one of their favorite parts of the AFN convention. This year, the selection is better than ever. Hundreds of booths line the first floor […]

  • Weather

    Evening News weather, Oct. 23

    by Carlos Faura on Oct 23, 22:22

    Kenai Peninsula – There will be isolated rain and snow on the Kenai with scattered showers from Anchorage north. Southeast - Expect rain to the south and a shower or two for the northern areas, with snow at pass levels. Interior & North Slope – It will be mostly dry with a flurry or two, […]

  • News

    Totem pole artist carves out a piece of history

    by Heather Hintze on Oct 23, 21:28

    A totem pole isn’t just a work of art for Tommy Joseph; it’s carving out a little piece of history. “That’s what a totem pole is all about is I’m telling someone’s story,” he said. “Everyone has a story.” On a warm morning in Sitka, he methodically chips away at a 10-foot cedar pole. He […]

  • Politics

    Show Me the Money: Marijuana Legalization

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Oct 23, 21:00

      Show Me the Money: Alaska’s Fiscal Future Four issues that could change the fortunes of Alaska… Four issues that have divided us… Four issues that will unite us as we go to the polls Nov. 4th… How can you prosper in the ever-changing landscape of living life in the 49th state?   Oct. 9 @ 9 […]