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. Bob

    " I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol,” Obama told the weekly magazine."

    I ALWAYS rely on politicians to give me good medical advice.

    January 19, 2014 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  2. first sign

    denial always a sign of something. so if your opinion is its not bad it doesnt make it illegal when its illegal on the books? that only works some class of citizens.

    January 19, 2014 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  3. Richard

    Obviously this dude has been tokin in the white house the last 6years

    January 19, 2014 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  4. Larry anderson

    Howdy I think cannabis Should be legal to the people that suffer from PTSD bipolar disorder depression and anxiety Attacks and in extreme intermediate explosive disorder In which I have I suffer from the above I think it should be legal in all states for those purposes I live in Ohio it should be legalized for those disabilities For whome ever has it it helps me a lot my family swears by it that it helps in a dramatic helpful way when I smoke it I'm perfectly calm I can be talked to I can think straight so if u please in the name of Jesus please legalize cannabis In all states for these purposes thank you sincerely Larry anderson Jr

    January 19, 2014 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  5. EarthWorm

    Might as well legalize all the products, let the American society get doped up all the time and let the opponent take us over completely in the 4th quarter. That is what will be happening in the next ten years or less.
    I think Obama and most of Congress is already on something because of the way they run the country. You can see from the crazy laws of recent their minds are not functioning even at 50%.
    I live here in a large city and you smell pot all the time near corner stores, park areas, and parking lots of major malls. Its already out of control and now its no stopping it. Americans always abuse a good law as the norm so why not all the hard stuff?
    Heck I might just go out here, get doped up, beat up and rob someone and then go off to jail and live off the taxpayer, claim insanity, and when I get out of jail live off the govt. for the rest of my life because my mind is wasted. Hey that is the NEW American Dream.

    January 19, 2014 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  6. @LaughinPaulRyan

    Buy some MJNA shares, 2013 High Times Cannabis Cup award-winner for Highest CBD Concentrate in Seattle and Amsterdam, they also hold a majority stake in Red Dice Holdings that licenses the Dixie Elixirs & Edibles brand that makes the medicated truffle that Veteran and The World's 1st recreational cannabis customer Sean Azzariti purchased. Visit Medical Marijuana Inc. (OTC:MJNA) website to find out more about why they are a great public cannabis stock to invest in long-term like: US Government Patent #6630507, KannaLife Sciences, CanChew CBD Gum, US Hemp Oil, Cibaderm, Cannabis Beauty DEFINED, Cibdex, Dixie Elixirs, HempMedsPX, HempVAP and more.


    January 19, 2014 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  7. bill n

    Weed = Alcohol = more people killed

    January 19, 2014 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  8. t socrates

    Alcohol KILLS people.
    Marijuana HELPS people.

    One is a dangerous poison to the human body – the other is a natural medicine which has ended ZERO lives to date.

    January 19, 2014 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  9. JPTuck

    He must have forgotten/missed the research that shows it remains in your system (brain) as long or longer than cocaine or lsd – and that the effects can manifest long after the drug has been ingested. Do we want a generation that 6 months or even years after having smoked pot turn back into the drug induced high state they had when smoking it? What if they are operating a plane or a train when this happens – or running part of an industrial plant? The potential for disaster is enormous. Its not so much what pot does to you today but what it can do to you tomorrow – when you least expect and are prepared for it.

    January 19, 2014 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  10. Yermom

    I think you people are really old.

    January 19, 2014 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  11. Mike Hoksohard

    Weed is great for nausea and migraines without cause liver damage like aspirin
    Alcohol is great liquid courage for fighting and violence

    January 19, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  12. Dave

    uh oh... This can't be good. Obama is a US politician, and as such... He has never told the truth about anything to anyone. Here we have another incident where his lips are moving. So we learn he would like us to think he thinks pot and alcohol are commensurate. All we know is what he wants us to think... not what he will do, or what his policies are.

    January 19, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  13. ahab

    Three of our last 4 Presidents admitted using it,they should know.

    January 19, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  14. Namedave

    You wait Barry will try to get the taxpayer to pay for the weed for his voter base via Obamacare

    January 19, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  15. dajowi

    It's time for marijuana to be removed from the Controlled Substances Act Drug Schedule and alcohol and tobacco be placed on it.

    January 19, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  16. Oscar

    I smoked some weed last night, played ps3, drove to whataburger and went home and slept. Woke up feeling great

    January 19, 2014 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  17. dragontat2

    A calibrated dose of meth is also known as Desoxyn, a prescribed pharmaceutical. And cocaine is a schedule 2 drug; doctors even use it on patients in their offices. And cannabis was carried by physicians in their little black bags as they made house calls, prior to the lies told to enact Prohibition.
    Comparing a plant one can easily grow in their backyard to pharmaceutical drugs is disingenuous. Lying to the people in order to enact bad law should be criminal.

    Cannabis isn't illegal because it gets people high ~ it is illegal because it all but replaces petroleum.
    Ethanol, Methanol, and Biodiesel. 4-6 x the fuel per acre as corn, and little to no pesticides necessary.

    January 19, 2014 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  18. yolanda

    @Think Again, in the 2012 election New Mexico,Hawaii, Maine, and the D.of C. all voted Democratic in the presidential race.Oh, and your argument about corporate taxes is bogus, as the US "enjoys" the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world....better find another way to put it to "the man".

    January 19, 2014 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  19. Name James Bogucheski

    Don't worry about other drugs... the legalization of marijuana will bring a new market to the US and its states. The truth? YOUR KIDS ARE ALREADY SMOKING POT CONCERNED PARENTS! Its already happening. If weed is legal that guarantees a safer environment to smoke, and the ability to regulate it on top of generating a large amount of income. Not only will Marijuana sales make a lot of money, they will also serve to boost almost all other industries as well, such as the food industry (munchies), the media industry (the interest in tv shows, movies, music rises to those who smoke weed), not to mention all the inspiration and creative ideas people come up with for businesses. Also has cancer-curing abilities. Lets legalize marijuana!

    January 19, 2014 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  20. A Million to Juan

    The Cartel in Chief is now promoting drug use?! Man, what a low life!

    As a parent you work your tail off to educate your children on the dangers of drugs and then Hussein Obama comes around and tries to destroy your work!!

    Ronald Reagan must be rolling in his grave!

    January 19, 2014 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  21. Siggy

    And Obama is no more dangerous than Richard Nixon...

    January 19, 2014 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  22. Mak

    Hell must be frozen over. Obama and me agree on something! I still ain't voting for Hillary.

    January 19, 2014 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  23. Phattee

    WRONG. Alcohol is much, much, much worse than weed.

    January 19, 2014 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  24. Yermom

    Keep trying to cling to life and black and white leave-it-to-beaver fantasies that never existed in reality.

    January 19, 2014 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  25. VJ

    He will make pot legal before end of his term.

    January 19, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
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