President Obama Is Kind of Okay With Legalizing Marijuana

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There's a lot going on in David Remnick's 17,000-word profile of Barack Obama in this week's New Yorker, but his statements about the legalization of marijuana are getting all the attention:

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.

The "not more dangerous than alcohol" thing is what's getting headlines, even though Obama's not saying anything that hasn't already been shown in recent studies.

Perhaps more surprising was that he seemed to be more open to legalizing marijuana:

Accordingly, he said of the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington that 'it's important for it to go forward because it's 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.

Now, Obama isn't quite going so far as to give the legalization of marijuana his full-throated endorsement (unlike his statements on the NSA in both the article and last Friday), but this is a shift compared to his December 2012 interview with Barbara Walters. Then, he said that fighting marijuana crime wasn't a "top priority," but he "wouldn't go that far" to say it should be legalized. Now he's saying it's "important" that legalization efforts in Colorado and Washington "go forward."

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But he's not completely on the side of legal weed. Ever the politician, he also added:

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?


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