January 19th, 2014
11:21 AM ET
8 years 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.

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“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. glenn

    Okay, which one is dangerous for 5-10 yrs kid smoke a piece or a glass of beer?

    January 19, 2014 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  2. Sanfran221

    No wonder Obamacare seemed like such a good idea at the time.

    January 19, 2014 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  3. Kevin

    Tell that jerk Obama ticome to my house and watch mt brother die from cancer CAUSED BY SMOKING POT!

    January 19, 2014 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  4. Silence DoGood

    It amazes me how those on the Right call out those on the Left for eschewing Personal Responsibility and perpetuating the Nanny State in it's place. Then they do the exact same thing regarding a God-given, natural plant. What is it that gives you the authority to eradicate this amazingly useful gift from our Creator? And what is it about the concept of Liberty that you despise so much? Legal or illegal, people have, and will, always look for ways to alter consciousness whether it's thru chanting, prayer, music, movies, alcohol, or MJ. There is nothing wrong or immoral about it. Our bodies are our own and are sovereign. Prohibition is immoral because it has immoral results and is caustic to society. The bodies are stacked like cordwood.
    You have exposed the truth about the Radical Right. They are for personal responsibility ONLY when it suits their narrow agenda. They are for smaller government ONLY to make room for the bigger government filled with moral laws suited to ONE religion (like the Taliban). They against handouts to the poor, while being all about handouts to corporations without any concern of "paying for it".

    January 19, 2014 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  5. glenn

    Is he try tell that it is okay for him to smoke it at white house instead of drink beer?

    January 19, 2014 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  6. Marty

    So if he thinks its less dangerous than something legal then why does he have "no interest in changing its schedule"? SOunds like he supports treating Americans unfairly to me, pot being a schedule 1 drug creates unfair treatment of people.

    January 19, 2014 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  7. jack zadeh

    i am agree with obama......

    January 19, 2014 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  8. Scott

    Your boy Bush Jr. is a proud cocaine abuser. Weed is scary.

    January 19, 2014 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  9. B-Wizzle

    Political strategy-Democrats,give the majority their cannabis. The people will give you 8 more years. Just showed my wife this article and we both agreed. We will vote for candidates that are for legalization and we are independents living in Texas. Both full time employed, our age is late 30's and we thank God everyday for our meals and our new day.

    January 19, 2014 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  10. Peg Breton

    YAY, MR. PRESIDENT!!!! You are, at least on this subject, listening to the majority of the people who elected you. I was beginning to worry that even the dems were getting tyrannical, since, in NH, anyway, it seems they are. I'm afraid that's why so many are turning away from our party. We feel overridden, even when we are in the majority, and walked all over. We feel we aren't being respected or listened to, and that makes for a very bad system of government. I'm SURE you aren't like that, and it's nice to know you are well educated on this matter. The thing is, see, the majority of Americans want you to legalize this on a national level, and you haven't done that yet. So, in a way, that makes you as bad as our Senators and Governor. BUMMER – and I voted for you – twice!!

    January 19, 2014 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  11. Ryan Baillargeon

    Weed also improves economic growth! After purchasing weed (which would go to taxes) and smoking it, you'll get the munchies and spend more. 2014 economic plan.

    January 19, 2014 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    Wow, what's wrong with this country ? I think we need more irresponsible losers walking and driving around our neighborhoods while under the influence of some legal or illegal chemical.

    January 19, 2014 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  13. chris

    They already have a small legal dose of Meth that doesn't rot your teeth Its Called Aderall and the latest Vyvanse and it is way worse effects on mood and highly dependency.. Same with heroin derivative of opiate plant the legal term of that is oxycotin or roxycodine.

    January 19, 2014 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  14. slupdawg

    I like the guy that just said the guy with his finger on the nukes is/was a doper. You mean GWB? It was well-documented he abused cocaine and alcohol.

    January 19, 2014 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  15. dotheflippin'math

    They are not equal. Alcohol is far more dangerous and addictive. Marijuana does not decrease reaction times significantly. It does not lead to aggressive behavior (most often, the opposite occurs). You can smoke pot all day, every day, for 20 years, and quit, without risking death or massive withdrawal symptoms. Alcoholics have been known to drink methanol and other poisonous chemicals when unable to get booze, which makes it a "gateway drug." There is no valid argument to allow alcohol while prohibiting pot. I'd rather 90% of drivers drive stoned, than 10% drive drunk. Either legalize it, or ban alcohol...better yet, for society, do both. It would save lives and decrease spousal and child abuse.

    January 19, 2014 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  16. lucy

    WE HAVE A POTHEAD AS A PRESIDENT. Is anyone surprised the health care roll out was a disaster? He is deficient in brain cells perhaps. Seriously, it is well documented that marijuana permanently alters the brains of young people. I've taught former potheads... What a waste of a good brain

    January 19, 2014 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  17. Peg Breton

    Oh, and, by the way, Mr. President, alcohol is FAR more dangerous than marijuana. Alcohol kills – marijuana doesn't. And marijuana doesn't have the nasty side effects of the big pharmaceutical companies' pills, which, by the way, we're shoving down our kids throats like they were candy, because we think they're depressed!! Our priorities are not straight here.

    January 19, 2014 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  18. hitman

    Impeach this fool!

    January 19, 2014 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  19. Name- Ray

    Well of course this idiot says it's OK. He used to smoke it. Or maybe he still does, who knows.

    January 19, 2014 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  20. Tweedle Dee POTUS

    I struggle here: the libs would outlaw all tobacco products because of its link to cancer; but I guess weed is okay since it also treats the cancer! Go figure!

    January 19, 2014 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  21. jp

    How sad.

    January 19, 2014 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  22. Dave

    Any mental health professional could tell you that alcohol is worse

    January 19, 2014 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  23. Jerry Schull

    Comparing POT to Cocaine or Meth is a bit like comparing apples to oranges. A preposterous comparison.

    POT should NOT be a schedule 1 drug. POT does have medicinal properties. Heck, even the US Government has patents directed at those properties. Remember who made it schedule 1. Nixon, the crackpot disgraced president who was run out of office and quite nearly nuked North Vietnam. Thank God for the peace movement. Talk about hypocritical.

    January 19, 2014 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  24. oneSTARman

    This is just CRAZY TALK comparing Pot to Tobacco and Alcohol.
    MILLIONS of People are Killed every year from using the
    Highly Addictive and Danger Drugs
    Alcohol and Tobacco
    NOBODY has EVER died from using POT

    January 19, 2014 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  25. ME

    Same as alcohol...it will be legal one day.....I hope the medical cannabis will be available for those who need it ,,
    Who cares about the recreational drug..??/
    Cannabis should not be compared to cocaine and meth.. ...They should always remain illegal..forever..

    January 19, 2014 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
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