President Obama doesn’t believe smoking marijuana is worse than drinking alcohol.
“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,” he said this month during an interview with The New Yorker.
Smoking marijuana is “not something I encourage, and I’ve told my daughters I think it’s a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy,” Obama said, noting the disproportionate number of arrests and incarcerations of minorities in the country for their use of the drug. “Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do.”
Marijuana use is still considered a crime under federal law, but the Obama administration has given permission to states to experiment with regulation of the drug. During the last presidential election, voters made Colorado and Washington the first two states in the country to allow the legal recreational use of marijuana for adults.
Additionally, the Alaska Campaign to Regulate Marijuana recently submitted about 46,000 signatures to state election officials in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana use, and lawmakers in the New Hampshire state House advanced a bill allowing up to 1 ounce of recreational use for adults.
A majority of Americans–58%–agreed with Coloradans about marijuana for the first time in October 2013, a difference from when 12% of the public favored legalization in 1969, according to a Gallup Poll.
“We should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time,” Obama added, “when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing.”