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Obama: Marijuana “No More Dangerous Than Alcohol”

President Obama spoke tentatively in favor of marijuana legalization, admitting that it’s no more harmful than booze and adding it’s even less harmful “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer.”

“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 an interview with the New Yorker published on Sunday. “I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”

The president also expressed concern regarding law enforcement’s propensity to prosecute minorities. “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.”

Also noting the hypocrisy in lawmakers, Obama said kids shouldn’t be processed for long jail terms considering “some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing.”

Additionally, Obama supported marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington, noting that “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.”

However, the president cautiously argued that marijuana’s benefits might be exaggerated and that “the experiment that’s going to be taking place in Colorado and Washington is going to be, I think, a challenge.”

In what might be his longest moment of public contemplation regarding drug legality in America, Obama said “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?” he asked.  “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?”

About the author

Gary Bryan is an industrial marketing manager by daytime and political and social issues writer by night. You can also find his editorials at Mic.com.