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. angelharlem

    Well I worked as a nurse..You can say that pot hasnt killed..All you want.It has killed..It has killed society. Everything is going downword..All I see is more child neglect more problems in our school systems...It maynot yet be a car accident yet..Why risk another drug for society to depend on

    January 20, 2014 06:00 am at 6:00 am |
  2. paul

    The President is smoking weed, Congress is Coke.
    What's going on America?

    January 20, 2014 06:00 am at 6:00 am |
  3. james

    Potheads are mellow but drunk are mean and start fights. Have you ever seen a pothead start a fight. Potheads just want peace and quiet.

    January 20, 2014 06:07 am at 6:07 am |
  4. Mike Wrathell

    Obama should personally see that pot is removed from Schedule I. Until he makes that attempt, he is a bad joke.

    January 20, 2014 06:12 am at 6:12 am |
  5. SomeoneSomewhere

    Feuhorbe- you need to take a class in logics. The snowball effect is an error in logic. Just because there is legalization and acception of marijuana does not mean that your comparison to cocaine is valid.

    January 20, 2014 06:12 am at 6:12 am |
  6. bluebird

    wow.... the pushers must love Obama....he just put another billion dollars in their pocket...now your 15 yr old has the Presidents blessing...we are so screwed. .and by the way you do know that drug dealers don't pay taxes on the money they make....it seems that he likes the middle east, drug pushers, terrorists, and giving our tax money to foreign countries...jeez...where is this country going....

    January 20, 2014 06:20 am at 6:20 am |
  7. Lily

    Who asked for his opinion? And that is all it is, his opinion. I think our Prez is getting a litte swell headed in Office. He seems to think he is the great moral compass in our country and feels compelled to right every happening in the news and in our lives through proclamations he utters throughout his tenure.

    January 20, 2014 06:21 am at 6:21 am |
  8. Steve

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

    So what's changed? - except he's honest about it.

    And a "doper"....? So was/is your dentist, your financial advisor, your surgeon, your in-laws, your kids' teachers .... Not everyone who smoked pot as a youth is a pothead, any more than people who drank beer back then is an alcoholic.

    January 20, 2014 06:26 am at 6:26 am |
  9. Woohoo

    And alcohol is no worse than?
    Fill in Blank here....................................

    January 20, 2014 06:33 am at 6:33 am |
  10. Grafted Olive Branch

    I consider myself conservative on most issues but smoking a little grass now and then is not criminal activity as far as I am concerned.

    January 20, 2014 06:43 am at 6:43 am |
  11. charles

    This guy is nuts!! He is a family guy with beautiful kids, buts supports homos and now advising everyone to smoke wee. All white house guests will now be served with wee instead of beer.

    January 20, 2014 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  12. Grafted Olive Branch


    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"

    If someone detects a cloud of MJ smoke from a moving vehicle it should be reported. It is easy to detect pot form the tail stream of a moving vehicle.

    January 20, 2014 06:48 am at 6:48 am |
  13. angelharlem

    Lets try a little natural law..We have to socialize with drugs..As long as it moderatly..It defines in the consitution that we are entitled to do what we want with our bodies as we see fit...It isnt against the consitution? We have bent every aspect of it as Americans..It is now it seems we take no respondsibility for our bodies our health..It is more of a reputation to be a pot smoker or a porn star etc As well as it isnt damaging society..It seems to create a inbalance in a nation

    January 20, 2014 06:51 am at 6:51 am |
  14. Joe

    Then legalize it and stop messing around. Let all of us who want and need to smoke it do so without any worry .

    January 20, 2014 06:51 am at 6:51 am |
  15. glenview0818

    We can only pray that MJ does not do the damage alcohol did to our society. Spoken like a true pot head.

    January 20, 2014 06:59 am at 6:59 am |
  16. glenview0818

    This is typical of this administration, say one thing and do another. If it is no more dangerous than alcohol, then remove it from the dangerous illegal drug list. Or better yet legalize it, and make the law so anyone convicted of it that are in prison are let out.

    January 20, 2014 07:02 am at 7:02 am |
  17. jj

    Yet another reason why this guy should have never been in this position.
    The American media neglected to investigate this guy.
    Who cares if he smoked pot?
    But as the President he needs to leadership not opinions.
    If it's so harmless maybe he can give it to his kids?

    January 20, 2014 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  18. Douglas

    as for the last line. they do. most ADHD meds are of an anphamine based drug which is all mis used. and the cocaine.... oxy, hyro,. they found a medical use to cocaine and meth. but what happen in the summer of 1969 is still affecting the medical used of lsd and pot

    January 20, 2014 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  19. Lawrence

    Remember this is Obama who said this, so I wonder what is in it for him...

    January 20, 2014 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  20. Steve

    Prostitution is a victimless crime too.

    January 20, 2014 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  21. Phil

    This is sad to hear from the mouth of the President of the United States! Those in offices of leadership should be held to a higher standard. All are dangerous. All addictive. All can take the life of those unintended, or innocent victims. What about drinking and driving? What about being high and unaware of your surroundings, driving and hurting, or killing other people because you are under the influence. Do you smoke pot in the White House? President Obama? I would think and hope not! Please think about what you say and the lives you are affecting by not thinking before speak.

    January 20, 2014 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  22. Peter gelezius

    That explains a lot of things. Our wasted president

    January 20, 2014 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  23. angelharlem

    Hmm picture your school teacher now can smoke pot..Add that to the resume Colorado

    January 20, 2014 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  24. Name

    Obama is a idiot.

    January 20, 2014 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  25. spencer1989

    When I was young pot was pot.....It was not as strong as it is today nor was it laced with embalming fluid the way lots of it is today.

    January 20, 2014 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
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