Obama On Weed

Luke Luby reflects on Barack Obama’s interview with The New Yorker’s David Remnick, where the U.S. president openly talks about experimenting with recreational drugs.

With the marijuana being legalised in a number of states in America – some for medical reasons and others for recreational uses – U.S. president Barack Obama weighed in on drug in a recent article by The New Yorker’s David Remnick, suggesting that he views tobacco as worse than weed, and that he sees marijuana as no worse than alcohol. As Obama said to Remnick: “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 continued by stating that, in his opinion, marijuana in better than alcohol for a person “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer,” but also added that he does not encourage the use of the drug.

Indeed, much of the studies done on marijuana has shown that, while not entirely safe, marijuana has significantly less impacts on a person’s health than both tobacco and alcohol, as well as an incredible ability to assist in lessening the symptoms of certain medical ailments. For these reasons, a number of states in America as well several countries have legalised it for medical reasons, or have allowed certain medical products containing chemicals only found in marijuana to be sold and used.

Obama, in his interview with Remnick, also suggested that he agreed with the recent changes in legislature in Colorado and Washington, and seemingly advocated changes in legislation in the rest of the country. He noted that “it’s important for it to go forward,” but added that legislation is going to be a “challenge” He added: “when 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”. He then went on to provide what he thought would be some other results of marijuana legalisation, speculating that some may hypothetically call for the legalisation of “a negotiated dose of cocaine that we can show is not any more harmful than vodka”.

Obama’s remarks, even though they were cautious to the point of near ambivalence, could still fuel momentum for legalisation at the state level, especially since he endorsed that approach. Only two states, Washington and Colorado, have legalised marijuana for recreational use. Beyond them, 20 states have either legalised it for medical purposes or decriminalised it to the point of near legalisation.

The Obama administration already seemed to aid state marijuana legalisation efforts. In the president’s first term, the administration told federal prosecutors that when they encountered medical marijuana situations where federal laws were stricter than state laws, they should defer to the states. The administration’s guidance was something of a muddle, according to some criminal defence experts.