President Barack Obama says he views marijuana as a “bad habit” and “a vice,” but no more dangerous than alcohol.
“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,” Obama told The New Yorker’s David Remnick. “I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”
The president acknowledged marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer.”
“It’s not something I encourage,” Obama continued, “and I’ve told my daughters I think it’s a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy.”
Still, 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.”
On the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington, 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.”
Obama’s support of legalization was welcomed by pot advocates.
“The first step to improving our nation’s marijuana policy is admitting that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol,” Mason Tvert, director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement. “Now that he has recognized that laws jailing adults for using marijuana are inappropriate, it is time to amend for those errors and adopt a more fact-based marijuana policy.
But the president also said legalization is a slippery slope:
“When it comes to harder drugs, the harm done to the user is profound and the social costs are profound. 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?”
His comments were part of a lengthy, wide-ranging profile published online Sunday. Some other notable quotes from the piece: