In an article by Slate, columnist Daniel Politi reported on a just released profile of President Obama written by The New Yorker’s David Remnick, and buried in the 17,000 word essay is President Obama's surprising response to Remnick's question about the legalization of marijuana.
“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,” Obama said. “I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.” When Remnick pressed on whether marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol, Obama thought about it for a while and said it was less dangerous “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer,” but emphasized that “it’s not something I encourage.” The president expressed particular concern with the disproportionate number of arrests for marijuana possession among minorities. “Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do,” he said, adding that individual users shouldn’t be locked up “for long stretches of jail time.”The President didn't stop there as he expressed mild support for legalization in Colorado, saying that “it’s important for it to go forward.”
He did however caution that the legalization across the country would be a “challenge,” due to the slippery-slope argument that could arise:
“[W]hen it comes to harder drugs, the harm done to the user is profound and the social costs are profound. And you do start getting into some difficult line-drawing issues. 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? 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?”A statement by a President not thoroughly denouncing pot as a vile, horrible drug would've been unheard of just a few years ago, but now we have a President brushing it off as simply being no worse than alcohol. Let's hope that we can look forward to hearing more statements like these from our nation's leaders in the near future.