January 20, 2014 by David K. Sutton
President Obama Says Marijuana Less Dangerous Than Alcohol, Shows Support For Legalization
Just as he did on same-sex marriage, President Obama has “evolved” on the criminality of marijuana. Well, to be fair, it’s entirely possible the president has always held his current opinion on pot, but you’d be hard-pressed to believe that is the case until recently.
“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,” said President Obama in an interview published in The New Yorker. He added, “I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”
Cue the collective facepalm.
Author David Remnick then asked the president, “Is it less dangerous?” As any good politician would do, Obama paused and contemplated how best to answer this question before saying marijuana is less dangerous “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer.” But he cautioned, “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.”
But at least this president is now more honest and less hypocritical of marijuana use, and more importantly, vocalizing the racial disparity of pot arrests. “Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do,” said the president. “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.” And this is not just conjecture, as it’s backed up by an ACLU study showing blacks are almost four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.
President Obama made the most important point when it comes to a civil and just society when 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.” I would slightly alter his statement and say we should not be locking up kids or individuals for pot use, period.
And this means the marijuana legalization experiments in Colorado and Washington are important first steps to a more just society. You cannot keep a substance illegal when a majority, or at least a large plurality, of the citizens have used that substance. It erodes respect for laws and our judicial system when people see such an injustice. Speaking of recent legalization efforts, Obama said, “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.”