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. dina levine

    What a joke this admin is. His wife is worried about what kids eat and this guy promotes drugs. lol She doesn't think about the cost of good food, why would she – she's flying on vaca all the time using our money. People eat bad food because that's all they can afford – duh Michelle!! So out of touch!! Obama will endorse anything that will give him more votes – to heck what's good or bad for anyone. These 2 are losers.

    January 20, 2014 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  2. 4F

    This is the only case where Obama actually knows what he is talking about!

    January 20, 2014 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  3. James

    In the last paragraph he says if the was a dose of coke or meth that would be safe there never would be those are manufactured drugs that use harsh chemicals to process the drugs. Marijuana is a natural thing it grows from seed you feed it what you feed you plants that you eat no harsh chemicals that can kill

    January 20, 2014 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  4. nobamacare

    Wow, so marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol....hmm....alcohol leads to a lot of deaths so what Obama is saying is that we are to just legalize another dangerous and deadly drug into the American system to destroy the people...

    January 20, 2014 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  5. Frankly

    President is right, alcohol is way more dangerous than pot. This isn't even debateable, it's science. Cigarettes are also more dangerous having. Carcinogenic properties that pot does not.

    January 20, 2014 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  6. Jason

    I find it funny that many of you cite obama's use of weed as something he doesn't admit; if you read the article he pulls no punches; to mr. Jones: seriously, do you REALLY think pot is going to ruin America? REALLY?! It's also amusing how you tea-bagger anti-obama crusaders pick and choose your issues carefully; you worry about pot and gays, yet cannot fathom that guns are corruptive (by the way, i live in New Mexico, site of the latest school shooting)

    January 20, 2014 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  7. w w

    Sunday, 1/19, in Broomfield CO, I passed an accident where a pick-up had run so far into the back of a van that it looked like one vehicle. Pick-up had MJ decal on the back. But whatever the distraction, no one will be held accountable.
    It's nice that Mr. Obama's life and marriage hasn't been affected by behavior and spending habits of pot addicts.

    January 20, 2014 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  8. PraiseAlfie

    Re: pot as a gateway drug. The only reason pot could ever be seen as a gateway drug is because the same guy that sells the pot also sells the harder stuff. It is in the dealer's best interest to sell clients the more expensive addictive drugs.

    Using the gateway argument, where does that leave cigarettes and alcohol?

    January 20, 2014 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  9. Wake up People!

    Weed is not a gateway drug. Stupid people do hard drugs BECAUSE THEY CHOOSE TO. Stop blaming weed because there are millions of people that have smoked and still do smoke weed that have NEVER tried any other drug or had an inclination to. That's just a ready made excuse for whites bad behavior.

    January 20, 2014 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  10. Frankly

    Problem with many of these posters is they make wild assumptions. What is this posters basis for linking MJ to US academic scores in comparison to developingg nations. This is non sense. It's a ridiculous leap to begin with and it's easily countered because if if you assume MJ is the cause of lower test scores, why did the US score lower than Netherlands where it's legal, also, why did US score lower than other countries where it's also illegal as it is in the US for the last 70 years?

    January 20, 2014 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  11. Jim McDonald

    obama is the most irresponsible President this Country has ever had.

    January 20, 2014 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  12. PraiseAlfie

    Some posts defending the status quo are hilarious. So now pot is responsible for autism in kids? Pot will be legalized to silence political protests?


    January 20, 2014 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  13. Brian

    I'd like to know the actual number of folks who are currently incarcerated for marijuana related crimes, and how much on average it costs taxpayers. I'd like to know the actual number of what farmers receive in subsidies from the government to grow crops that are unnecessary (like corn). If the US treated marijuana like alcohol, how would those numbers adjust? How much in tax dollars could be derived from making marijuana a cash crop? People are going to smoke weed whether it's legal or illegal.

    January 20, 2014 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  14. Brian

    I love all the comments about a young Obama and marijuana use. Bet the same folks made the same comments about George W Bush being an admitted alcoholic. And I'm also sure that NONE of the same critics ever did anything dumb and stupid when they were young.

    January 20, 2014 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  15. Z_Nips

    "Yeah, thanks for the insight, Obama – we already knew that." - ANYONE with a triple-digit IQ from the last 80+ years.

    January 20, 2014 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  16. slipstreamghost

    Hey Mr. Obama, its worse than drinking. When someone drinks, the person next to the drinker doesn't get drunk.

    When a pothead smokes, it affects people around who have to get away from the smoker and they go on in their car and drive away stone.

    Like the guy who hit me head on last Friday. But he didn't get charged because they can't prove it. The driver admitted he doesn't remember a thing about the accident. Surprise there. He didn't even know he was on the wrong side of the road. Officer said charges for careless will most likely be dropped (because it's a hefty charge and he is young and cooperated with no priors. He is 19 years old. Odds are priors are erased due to being underage) and the MJ they found in the car "belongs to passenger" who got charged for possession.

    January 20, 2014 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  17. pjoe

    Can we please quit this "War On ____" rhetoric?
    The War On Drugs ... fail.
    The War On Poverty ... fail.
    The War On Illiteracy ... fail.
    The War On Women ... huh?

    January 20, 2014 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  18. Wingers1

    I don't know about all the studies or claims by all of you. I just know that I have a 17 year old grandson, that was a good kid, never stole that I knew, never lied to me that I knew and now that he has been introduced to pot, he will absolutely do anything for it. He has abused his entire family to the point that I am the only one that will even try to help him. He steals anything, he lies about almost everything and the worse part he just does not care about anything but getting high from pot. He has also used LCD after he got used to the high from pot, he indicated looking for more of a high. So take that for what it is, I am living it and I fear the outcome.

    January 20, 2014 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  19. MDerosa

    So why is it listed as a schedule 1 drug Mr President ???? You can change that with your infamous pen........

    January 20, 2014 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  20. Bill Miller

    Obama: No worse than Bush. Unfortunately, no better either.

    January 20, 2014 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  21. Tommy

    Is this stuff actually still ilegal. This country is so backwards. case in point marijuana vs. deadly pharmaceuticals and it's list of unnatural side effects. .

    January 20, 2014 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  22. Neokat1

    This president is turning out to be a true disgrace for society.

    January 20, 2014 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  23. yourbestwater

    Bill did NOT inhale. Barry has NOT exhaled. not yet. instead of Tea Baggers this is

    "We the Weed Baggers in order to perform a more perfect Union, do declare that Candy is dandy, but Licker is quicker. Pot is not."

    January 20, 2014 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  24. shadow66

    Anyone trying to defend marijuana or alcohol is just wasting their time. They are both harmful. Physically and most especially to the psyche. People have become obsessed with "escape" and look to drugs (alcohol is a drug) to obtain it. There are many independent studies on every drug you can think of that show a laundry-list of negative physical effects of drugs. There is no defending any of them for the properly educated person. It is just fact. These delusions are led by those who want to make money from it or those that want to use it. I know first hand and I am not near as gullible as I used to be. Especially now that I have practical and intellectual knowledge to the contrary. Its all bad!

    January 20, 2014 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  25. noone

    It's about damn time! Now legalize it already!

    January 20, 2014 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
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