January 19th, 2014
11:21 AM ET
9 months ago

Obama says marijuana ‘no more dangerous than alcohol’

Washington (CNN) – Marijuana, which is still placed in the same category as heroin, ecstasy and psychedelic mushrooms by the federal government, is no more dangerous than alcohol, President Barack Obama said in an interview published Sunday.

Speaking to New Yorker editor David Remnick, Obama said he still viewed pot smoking negatively – but that on the whole, the drug wasn’t the social ill that it’s been viewed as in the past.


“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. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol,” Obama told the weekly magazine.

The president said pot was actually less dangerous than alcohol “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer.”

“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 said.

Two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized recreational marijuana use. Another 18, along with the District of Columbia, allow some legal pot use, primarily for medicinal purposes. But when it comes to federal law, marijuana remains a schedule 1 controlled substance - a drug with high potential for abuse but no accepted medical use - and the White House has said that Obama doesn’t support changing that status.

Instead, Obama said in the New Yorker interview that he’s focused on making laws that treat users fairly.

“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,” he told Remnick.

In August, Obama’s Justice Department announced it would not challenge legalization in Colorado and Washington, and instead focus federal enforcement on trafficking cases and preventing pot from getting in the hands of kids. Prosecutors are now required to focus on distinct enforcement priorities that also include preventing driving while high and forbidding the cultivation of marijuana on public lands.

In the New Yorker, Obama said Colorado and Washington’s laws were “important” since they decriminalized a commonly used substance. But he also said the laws could raise questions for other illegal substances.

“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?” Obama wondered. “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?”


Filed under: Obama administration
soundoff (1,076 Responses)
  1. Gurgyl

    True...

    January 19, 2014 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  2. Anonymous

    yeah.....i'm ok with that.

    January 19, 2014 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  3. John Geheran

    Maybe so Mr. President, but two wrongs still don't make a "right".

    January 19, 2014 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  4. YUCK

    how many people have died do to drunk driving????at least marijuana has been used for paper and clothing.

    January 19, 2014 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  5. Sreddib

    Ok so this all seems fairly reasonable...ish. But that last statement about Cannabis legalisation becoming not the gateway drug, but the gateway legalisation for cocaine and Crystal Meth... He's basically saying "Oh no, we don't want to legalise Cannabis because then people will want to legalise other drugs..." This isn't an issue about other drugs. The whole issue about Cannabis should be based on Cannabis purely and no other substance as it is so different from all the other substances in how useful the whole plant is. So I don't want to hear these stupid gateway theories because that's not the issue.

    January 19, 2014 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  6. Notaposter

    Now here's something I can agree with him for.

    January 19, 2014 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  7. claygooding

    ""“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?” Obama wondered. “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?”"

    We are basing a national/global policy on an "if",,,as if marijuana ever belonged on the CSA in the first place,,the president ignores the fact that marijuana prohibition was enacted using racial bigotry and lies in 1937 and maintained with government propaganda and lies since,,he ignores that every study done at the request of congress has recommended decriminalization or legalization of marijuana and they have ignored it,,he forgets that half the United State's population is using marijuana under a doctors care,,he keeps the hypocrisy going.
    I think forgetting him will be just as easy.

    January 19, 2014 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  8. Vegas Smitty

    The mantra of every brain dead stoner!

    January 19, 2014 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  9. Matt Thacker

    I think he means, it is a lot safer than alcohol.

    January 19, 2014 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  10. Anonymous#2

    They need to legalize and tax, alcohol makes you violent and marijuana doesn't simple. I know.

    January 19, 2014 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  11. Thomas

    Obama says marijuana ‘no more dangerous than alcohol’

    Finally , a president who is real !

    January 19, 2014 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  12. Vegas Smitty

    I used to smoke pot, but then I grew up, seems some people never do!

    January 19, 2014 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  13. SteveS

    I think Hell just froze over because for once, I agree with the President!

    January 19, 2014 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  14. Gurgyl

    Time to tighten immigration.

    January 19, 2014 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  15. Jürgen Erhard

    He thinks marijuana is as dangerous as (or less than) alcohol, but legally, it should stay as dangerous as heroin.

    I think that's a split that easily rivals Jean-Claude Van Damme's

    January 19, 2014 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  16. Chris

    Used as a "prescribed" drug is one thing, openly using it in PUBLIC places is another! Keep it in the basements of the drug users, lock up public users, and especially those 'dopes' who use it and drive.

    January 19, 2014 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  17. 7godeohs

    @clay – So you're saying there are 155 million people in the U.S. currently taking medicinal marijuana? Could I see any sort of study with facts that back that number up? Seems a little ludicrous to me.

    January 19, 2014 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  18. Steve

    Follow me down the toilet!

    January 19, 2014 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  19. Realistic

    Too bad this is probably a lie, too. "You can keep your doctor." "We're not spying on anyone." "We won't go after Colorado for their weed." Can we please just smoke already? This sounds dumber than alcohol prohibition.

    January 19, 2014 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  20. Mike

    In my opinion I agree with the President. In fact, I consider alcohol a worse scourge on society than marijuana. I don't participate in the use of either but I do believe that they should both be legal or both illegal.

    January 19, 2014 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  21. potty

    I used to smoke pot, now i poop and pee in a pot.

    January 19, 2014 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  22. dnokc

    Not very different than smoking cigarettes....and that's a good thing?

    January 19, 2014 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  23. Lynn

    How is it anybody's business but my own what I use for pain relief ?

    January 19, 2014 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  24. aj

    >> “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?” Obama wondered.
    >> “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?”

    Then let those arguments be made at that time and the laws will be judged on the merits of those cases. That's a straw man argument and has nothing to do with the legalization of grass. If somebody says that about heroin would you say "yes! of course because we said it was OK for MJ!" If you aren't likely to say yes, they who is the legislator you are worried about – so mentally inferior to you that they would say YES?

    January 19, 2014 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  25. geladius

    lol

    January 19, 2014 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
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