Obama's belief that pot's less risky than alcohol (sort of) is refreshing, says Mason Tvert
In the latest issue of the New Yorker, President Barack Obama says marijuana isn't more dangerous than alcohol and is actually less so in at least one significant way.
President Barack Obama.
Obama, who admits to smoking pot during his younger years but has spoken critically about the substance, hasn't turned into a cheerleader for weed.
But Marijuana Policy Project spokesman Mason Tvert is still upbeat about the President's statements and hopes they signal more progressive cannabis policies on the part of his administration.
In the New Yorker piece, penned by David Remnick, Obama initially addresses the subject of marijuana in a manner reminiscent of his comments in an interview with Barbara Walters from December 2012.
"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," he tells Remnick.
But then he breaks new ground to some degree by adding, "I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol."
When asked if he believes marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol, Obama grows cautious, arguing that it's not as risky "in terms of its impact on the individual consumer." Then, after stressing that pot smoking 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," he takes on the subjects of enforcement and race.
"Middle-class kids don't get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do," he maintains. "And African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties." As such, he goes on, "we should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing."
President Obama during a 2011 appearance in Colorado.
He also references Colorado and Washington, the two states that have legalized recreational pot sales. In his view, their efforts should be allowed to move ahead "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."
"It's refreshing to finally hear our nation's top governmental official acknowledge that marijuana is less harmful for the consumer than alcohol," he says. "Although it's somewhat odd that it has to come as a surprise when our President simply acknowledges a fact -- an obvious fact. But the evidence is clear, and finally, it appears our federal government is shifting toward a more evidence-based approach. And hopefully this translates into action."
One obvious step Obama and company could take pertains to allowing marijuana entrepreneurs in Colorado and Washington to use banking services, as can other legal businesses. Based on reports he's received, Tvert believes this fix is already underway. As such, he feels the first priority should be "Congress taking action when it comes to changing specific marijuana laws."
Continue for more of Mason Tvert's reaction to President Barack Obama's recent marijuana-related statements.