President Obama: Marijuana No More Dangerous Than Alcohol

Press Release January 18, 2014
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<p>Contact: Tony Newman (646) 335-5384 or&nbsp;Ethan Nadelmann (646) 335-2240</p>

In an interview with the New Yorker published Sunday, President Obama spoke about his past drug use, said marijuana was no more dangerous than alcohol, talked about racial disparities in marijuana arrests and said the new laws legalizing marijuana in Colorado and Washington are ‘important.’

Excerpts from the interview by David Remnick of the New Yorker where Obama talked about drugs and the war on drugs include:

“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 Remnick.

The president expressed concern about disparities in arrests for marijuana possession. “Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do,” Obama said, adding that individual users shouldn’t be locked up “for long stretches of jail time.”

In the interview, Obama said he believes these new laws are "important."

“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,” said Obama.  

President Obama’s interview is generating national news and is being applauded by drug policy reform advocates.

“What’s most important about President Obama’s comments is that he called the new laws in Colorado and Washington ‘important’,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.  “This really puts the wind in the sails of the movement to end marijuana prohibition both around the country and abroad.  It will undoubtedly open the door for other elected officials in the United States and around the world to say the same, and to move forward with ending marijuana prohibition in their own states and countries.”

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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