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. n

    some thing can better get behind

    January 20, 2014 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  2. Al_Satan

    And alcohol is one of the most dangerous drugs around. So weed is just as bad then right?

    January 20, 2014 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  3. alaskan1st

    MT
    "Ain't" it great knowing the man with his finger on the nuke button was/is a doper? LOL

    January 19, 2014 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
    ///////////////////////////////////////

    I felt so much better with a drunken Bush swaying over the button.

    January 20, 2014 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  4. MJ

    Our President says it's ok to smoke pot, wow ! ..that means alcohol is ok, too.

    January 20, 2014 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  5. ThinkAgain - If you want Congress to actually do something FOR the American people, vote OUT the Repub/tea bag majority

    @Dewey: "It's not the same weed he smoked when he was young, it is far more dangerous."

    Very true.

    January 20, 2014 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  6. Skarphace

    Andy: "Just think tens of thousands of pot heads leaving work getting into their cars and smoking on the commute home, How many will the kill."

    Just think of the hundreds of thousands of people leaving bars, getting into their cars being under the influence on the commute home. How many will they kill? Oh wait, that already happens daily.

    January 20, 2014 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  7. aesr666

    I now understand why this country is the way it is right now. Our "fearless" leader runs this country high on marijuana. This is great! So that means for future events at the White House, all attendees, including Obama will "smoke nature".

    January 20, 2014 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  8. thenakedpolitico

    so when is the first rehab for potaholic going to show up,they're already putting together a test for thc abuse while driving/working..when will people take their foodstamp money and buy pot instead,now that the war on pot is done,how soon will the government be paying for pot abusers...

    January 20, 2014 12:47 am at 12:47 am |
  9. thenakedpolitico

    i can see it now,a national test for abusing pot,set at about half a hit,tickets for driving high,rehab for working high..and of coarse the american taxpayer will have to pay for all of it..wunder how much it will cost?????????????

    January 20, 2014 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  10. Name

    Wrong it is used as medication as prescribed. Legal in Colorado and Washington.

    January 20, 2014 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  11. justice

    the difference is meth and cocaine can and eventually kill you marijuana wont and can not kill you no matter how much you smoke and on top of that you can not over dose on marijuana.... i am all for the legalizing marijuana and having a set age like they did alcohol.... but on another note you can still die from drinking to much beer and its legal.... everything other than marijuana is man made and you want to keep a natural plant illegal.... cigarettes natural but still yet man made chemicals that harm the body is legal and sold in gas stations and other stores like walmart.... how does that make any sense at all??????

    January 20, 2014 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  12. Name

    Marijuana is natural. There's no chemicals added to it. I believe as a non user it should be legal as long as there's no additives. I can grow herbs in my garden and do as I wish. Marijuana is just a herb. They're are many pluses for some people. Legalize ands make it available like tobacco.r

    January 20, 2014 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  13. Name Uche Agonsi

    Mr. President is not a medical authority for such reckless comments on marijuana. Other countries seem to think that abnormalies are resurrecting from US social life capable of destroying this world. Firstly same sex, then marijuana, among others. Imagine your kids in class after smoking pot. I have seen many cases this drug caused madness. Its not only smoking but drugging too. It destroys the brain cells. If we legalise the intake, we should accept it in games/sports. It causes exhaustion excessively and uncontrolled food consumption, when taken overdose and under weak body condition, it normally results to mental problem. Now how do you recommend this to the poor, young, mentally weak people. We should re-examine our thoughts or be consumed by them.

    January 20, 2014 01:06 am at 1:06 am |
  14. duhhhh

    No worse? there is no comparison... Weed is nowhere near as bad al alcohol in the slightest

    January 20, 2014 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  15. Peter

    Weed and alcohol are similar. Alcohol is better to be used recreationally as just a once in a while thing, cause its water soluble, weed is better to be addicted to and use chronically. Addiction isn't good, but there are so many chronic alcholics in this country it pitiful and weed would be better for that type of everyday over use.

    January 20, 2014 01:12 am at 1:12 am |
  16. Geez1234

    "Weed" I'm just going to sit here and watch tv.
    "Alcohol" I'm going to get drunk and maybe get in a fight .
    So tell me, what is worse for you?

    January 20, 2014 01:17 am at 1:17 am |
  17. ktonline

    Seriously.OMG. What is this coming to? Maybe we should just legalize all drugs.

    January 20, 2014 01:24 am at 1:24 am |
  18. ItsAMirage

    One thing I do know....driving under the influence of alcohol kills many many people a year. It also causes many health problems. Yet......we get bombared with commercials on how great drinking is. Restaurants...sporting events sell alcohol with minimal restrictions. Maybe instead on focusing on the marijuana usage...we should concentrate on an alcoholic epidemic that our country has. I mean...there's facts supporting the dangers of alcohol.

    January 20, 2014 01:26 am at 1:26 am |
  19. Jimmy Vick

    This is the 2nd thing this man has ever said that I am in agreement with.

    January 20, 2014 01:31 am at 1:31 am |
  20. James Rustle

    Posting something negative about weed on the internet is like insulting Allah in Saudia Arabia. My goodness, the stoners are rabid zealots.

    January 20, 2014 01:33 am at 1:33 am |
  21. Cheryl Noddin

    There are those with a DWI that are incarcerated over four years, their own fault o course. How are those smoking the weed going to be treated for DWI other than they will stink of it of course. How do employers handle those who work while under the influence...fire the individual of course. That has to be legal as well.

    January 20, 2014 01:35 am at 1:35 am |
  22. mbh

    Wow, what an incredible example our President sets when he advocates the legalization of marijuana. In watching the media reports from CO, it was incredible to see so many line-up to spend the incredible prices for this substance. Just imagine if they had spent their time and money on something productive. So, now the fast food industry is preparing their ads to attract the weed community. Boggles my mind at how far and how fast our society is sinking.

    January 20, 2014 01:42 am at 1:42 am |
  23. Anonymous

    Recent studies have found a connection between children with autistism and marijuana smoking parents, do a web search... there were no studies on pot until now but this could be why so many kids are been born with autism, remember deferent than the 70s all the pot in the market now is genetically modified.

    January 20, 2014 01:48 am at 1:48 am |
  24. Polecat

    He said of said it is far less dangerous. In fact, there is no danger from the plant at all. In reality, the only danger is from the over zealous, bored crime fighters we call Police, that would rather hassle citizens with weed then actually make an impact on violent crime.

    January 20, 2014 02:01 am at 2:01 am |
  25. Tigrr

    US govn't is on a campaign to keep the public doped and pacified so they won't rebel as their Rights are being taken away. The old 'poision the town well' tactic to keep the citizens from removing the corrupt king.

    January 20, 2014 02:08 am at 2:08 am |
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