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POLITICS: PennAve

Obama: Marijuana 'not very different' from cigarettes

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Politics,White House,Brian Hughes,Barack Obama,PennAve,Marijuana,Drug Legalization

President Obama in an interview released Sunday said that using marijuana was not that different from smoking cigarettes nor any more dangerous than drinking alcohol.

“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,” Obama said as part of an extensive profile published by the New Yorker on Sunday. “I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”

However, Obama said he discouraged his own daughters from using the drug.

“It’s 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 added.

The president has long railed against what he views as an overcrowding of jails tied to drugs. He has urged his Justice Department to focus more on violent offenses than incarcerating people for drug use.

And the president said he wasn't opposed to laws passed in Colorado and Washington that legalized marijuana use. Many have wondered if the Justice Department would intervene in those states, but officials have been reluctant to do so.

Of the state’s laws, Obama said 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.”

However, the president warned against using the states' marijuana laws to open the door for less-restrictive statutes on harder drugs.

“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?”

And Obama pondered: “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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