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Obama says Marijuana is a vice ‘no more dangerous than alcohol’

President Obama said pot was not worse than alcohol and he supports laws in Colorado and Washington.
President Obama said pot was not worse than alcohol and he supports laws in Colorado and Washington.
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Obama haters got new talking points Sunday when the New Yorker magazine published an interview with President Obama in which he said that he does not believe marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol and that it was “important” that the legalization of the drug in some states to “go forward” because it would prevent unfair penalties for some users.

The interview came out on the day that the champions of both the AFC and NFC hail from states where marijuana has been legalized. In Colorado, home of the AFC champion Broncos began legal sales of marijuana on New Years Day. Washington, where the NFC champion Seahawks reside, will begin legal pot sales this spring. This fact is not likely to be missed during Super Bowl coverage.

The president said he did see pot as less dangerous “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer.” He also indicated that he was particularly concerned by disproportionate arrests of and sentences for minorities possessing the drug.

“Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do,” Obama said. “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.”

The president said he believed it was unfair that the government was “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.”

The president endorsed the experiments in Washington and Colorado to legalize the drug before it was decided that the Broncos and Seahawks would play in the Super Bowl.

“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.”

President Obama has never denied using pot when he was younger, and said that inhaling” was the “point.” He said that it was a vice like the cigarettes he smoked well into his adult life. As a father he said he told his daughters he thinks “it’s a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy.”

Unfortunately, the talk show hosts on the right will totally twist and mischaracterize the president’s comments. It is likely they will tell listeners that Obama is encouraging everyone to get and stay stoned 24/7.

The point of the president’s remarks had less to do about the herb than it did the use of marijuana laws to discriminate against poor people and my extension, African-Americans and Latinos. He made the point that middle class kids don’t get locked up because they can afford good lawyers to get them off. The kids of the one-percent never get arrested to begin with despite using drugs at the same rate as blacks and Latinos.
It is no coincidence that the war on drugs began under Nixon and went on steroids under Reagan. It is a national tragedy that drug laws have been used as legal cover to arrest “political prisoners” in the United States. Drug laws were used during the Nixon administration to arrest and prison anti-war demonstrators. Federal prosecutors have been accused of using archaic drug laws to go after and threaten not only minorities but those who go too far in their opposition to drug laws, or the Iraq war among other things.

An irony of the Super Bowl is that the Bronco and Seahawk players live in states where marijuana is legal, but if this legal substance is found in their blood, they face discipline from the NFL. Perhaps the NFL needs to rethink its rules on marijuana. When pot was illegal in every state, that policy seemed to be reasonable. Now, equal protection issues arise when someone is penalized for doing something that is legal in their home state. It is like the federal government not recognizing a same-sex marriage legally performed in a state. The Supreme Court has already opined on that issue.

The president should get kudos for his leadership on this issue. Taxpayers are wasting massive amounts of money to prosecute and prison Americans for using or possessing small amounts of marijuana. These political prisoners should be pardoned and the practice stopped, the money diverted to ridding society of real criminals starting with Wall Street and corporate board rooms.

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