As the debate over the legalisation of marijuana is being debated in the US, President Barack Obama has said that he thinks the use of cannabis is “not very different from cigarettes and no more dangerous than alcohol”.
Speaking in an interview with the New Yorker editor David Remnick, Obama added that while “it’s not something I encourage”, prison sentences should not be handed over to those caught using marijuana.While marijuana is still classed as a “Schedule One” substance on a par with heroin or ecstasy by federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in the US, it has now been legalised for recreational use in the two states of Washington and Colorado.
Mr Obama told the weekly magazine: “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.” When he was asked whether he felt marijuana was less harmful than alcohol, the President replied in affirmative saying it was indeed less damaging and harmful “in terms of its impact on the individual customer”. The president also said he has told his daughters smoking marijuana is “a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy.”
It was said by the Justice Department previously that it will focus more on catching and prosecuting those who are supplying the drug rather than individual users, which the US President said was a better focus of the government than trying to change marijuana’s legal status. “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 said to the magazine. Colorado and Washington’s laws was equally praised by Obama, saying it is “important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished”.
But he said they also raised concerns that legalisation could be pushed too far. “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?” Mr Obama said. “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 OK with that?”
The comments came from the American President Obama after New York announced that it along with Washington DC would join 20 other states in permitting the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.