January 19th, 2014
11:21 AM ET
11 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. OTL

    Interesting, anybody realize he admits to breaking Federal and State laws ?

    January 19, 2014 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  2. Roger Cain

    Obama's comments come as no surprise considering all the laws HE breaks. I guess the very fact it's ILLEGAL is an inconvenient truth for him to point out to his daughters. Obama is a bad president, a bad role model, and a bad father.

    January 19, 2014 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  3. Jeremy

    Since when has alcohol been safe? How many work hours are lost a year to alcohol hangovers? How many abused wives and kids are there because alcohol? How many people die every year to alcohol related diseases or drunk drivers. List goes on and on.

    January 19, 2014 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  4. Not Too Hard To Understand

    For the love of god, it's 2014 and we're still discussing marijuana? Jebus! Just legalize and tax it already. This isn't rocket science. It's a friggin' leafy plant!

    January 19, 2014 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  5. Rick McDaniel

    That is totally debatable, and not at all honest.

    January 19, 2014 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  6. Mike Parent

    Does anyone honestly believe that wasting $20 Billion and arresting 3/4 Million Americans annually for choosing a substance Scientifically proven to be safer than what the govt allows, is a sound policy?

    January 19, 2014 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  7. TheDude

    Obama you smoked weed... You don't need to calibrate a dose of weed to keep from over-dosing. It's not like meth, heroin, crack and its a damn sure safer pain med then a prescription of oxy.

    January 19, 2014 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  8. sam

    I agree and Obama is no worse than weed so far.

    January 19, 2014 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  9. AceGirlshusband

    Well, heck: let's pass a joint during the next Cabinet meeting.

    January 19, 2014 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  10. Vuk Aguirre

    You can enjoy life without resorting to stimulants like alcohol and drugs. Why escape reality to fantasy land? If you want to smoke marijuana, it is OK with me. just don't force it on me.

    January 19, 2014 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  11. paul

    Is this man for real? If your really believe that statement sir, why is marijuana still grouped in the same category as HEROIN?? Why are millions of people still thrown in PRISON for using it? Why are our prisons FULL of non-violent POT smokers? Why does the federal government still come and unconstitutionally and illegally shut down dispensaries in states that have made it perfectly LEGAL and then throw THESE people in prison?? Where are your words about this? Where were you 10 years ago on the issue (when legalization wasnt as mainstream) when people in severe pain or who had epilepsy needed it? This phony did the same thing with issues like gay marriage and the individual heath care mandate. As soon a public opinion starts to gain support or change on an issue, he changes as well – making his empty rhetoric and manipulative comments to gain public support, so he can push through more shitty mandates and regulations. This makes me sick to my stomach.

    January 19, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  12. Antelopetim

    I think the guy is right for once. If any of you has ever lived around an alcoholic, maybe you'd be arguing for prohibition and at the very least you'd be consistent.

    For years and years the government has lied about the impacts of marijuana because of a moral position that it was believed to be bad. No one, the president included is making the argument that pot smoking is a good thing. It's just being recognized that the government shouldn't criminalize it.

    Why not make alcohol illegal? and gambling too? What about extreme sports? Maybe next the government should monitor our diets and control when and what we eat too so that we don't expose ourselves to obesity and type 2 diabetes and heart disease. What about smoking?

    Ask anyone who has had a family member die from lung cancer, or heart disease, how much fun that was. This seems pretty clear to me. There are proven benefits from weed for certain groups of people, and it is no worse than many things available and legal for us now. The point is government shouldn't be legislating our lives..... by the way, I don't smoke pot, or cigarettes or drink.

    Washington and Colorado have made it legal, let's see how it goes.

    January 19, 2014 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  13. BOOZESCHEDULE1DRUG

    The pres is a complete moron. Agrees it is not more dangerous than alcohol. You can't have it both ways, either take it off of the schedule one category or put cigarets and booze on the schedule one as well. WHICH IS IT GONNA BE?

    January 19, 2014 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  14. walt stawicki

    lets get this clear first: maraujana is SAFER THAN alcohol.

    next: its not for kids or developing brains. no more or less than alcohol, ritalin, speed, extacy, steroids, ...and none should be encouraged for under 25....brain devrlopement line not the old 18 or 21 social line.

    as for clesn, calibrated "hard drugs" no problrm there either! harm reduction and the experience of Portugal for one. The U.K. prescribes both cocaine and heroin . we're just too puritanical to look at reality.

    lasyly the work of Dr Karl Heart showing how our ideas of the drug fiend are still back in the Anslinger era. see his book "High Price" and the experiment he talks about ..."Rat Park" which shows rats with a descent quality rat life dont do drugs. his book suggests the same of people...who have a basic quality life and some reason to get up and carry forth...or not, to abstain or fall into "addiction."

    barrack...were still hoping you deliver on the change you "promised"

    January 19, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  15. JohnRJohnson

    "Weed" doesn't give you liver damage and cause you to miss work because of a hangover. How often do you hear of someone smoking a doobie then going out and killing somebody? Doesn't happen. The alcohol industry has been lobbying against legalization of pot for decades. What does that tell you?

    January 19, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  16. chano2012

    I agree with Obama execept where he brought in meth. Maybe u could find a small legal dose of meth or cocaine, but they both will still damage u on the long run. As for cannabis, it takes care of u, treats diseases, can b used as fiber, etc, and with no bad effects! I can't do any of these things crack or meth. Also, if there are patents out there that state cannibis is used for Medicinal purpose, and patients cured from cancer. Why is it listed as a schedule ??? It is being used for medicinal and there is proof! Way more do u want! Oh ya money.....

    January 19, 2014 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  17. Chuck

    Obama is fake about being Pro Pot, Holder has done more to destroy
    the LEGAL Medical Marijuana Co-Ops in California than under Bush

    January 19, 2014 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  18. Philip Marshall

    Just one more reason this guy needs to be impeached.

    January 19, 2014 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  19. Wamp

    Wow... Some of these posts are just insane. If you have smoked Pot, you know that alcohol effects are much worse on your body. Long term, short term and everything in-between.

    January 19, 2014 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  20. William Bellah

    I used to think Obama was a smart guy, a fast learner, but I was wrong. The "President" has yet to figure out what it means to be a roll model. After five years he has proved himself to be lacking in common sense. If it was not for his wife, his beautiful daughters would probably be totally confused and messing up their lives.

    January 19, 2014 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  21. Doug's Rock n Roll Art Galleries

    So, by way of logic, the government is saying that heroin is no more harmful as alcohol.

    If mj is no worse than alcohol, and mj is classed in the same sched 1 as heroin, ecstasy, and 'shrooms, then logically, heroin is not that bad for you.

    By government standards.

    January 19, 2014 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  22. J Bradford

    Obama shows again and again – is are really great president.

    January 19, 2014 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  23. MC

    Marijuana is a lot more safe than alcohol – nice to see barack shilling for the booze industry that kills thousand a year....alcohol related hospitalization and deaths run in the tens of thousand each year – # of pot ODs? ZERO

    January 19, 2014 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  24. phazon

    If more deaths are caused by alcohol than marijuana because it's legal then one could scientifically point out that if pot was made legal we could expect the same consequences for people who foolishly drive or operate heavy equipment while stoned.

    January 19, 2014 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  25. Jerry

    Wow, the Commander in Chief is placing MJ on the same line as alcohol...

    January 19, 2014 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44