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ORIGINAL POST, Jan. 20, 10:58 AM: In an interview with The New Yorker's David Remnick, President Obama has conceded what most Americans already know: marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol.
Given that nobody has ever died from an overdose on pot whereas countless Americans have perished from alcohol-related illnesses (not to mention drunk driving accidents and the like) Obama also took the next logical step and admitted that weed is actually far safer to the individual consumer than alcohol. The fact that a sitting president has admitted that the federal government's pot prohibition is essentially bullshit has led many observers to ponder whether 2014 might just be the year marijuana is legalized.
In the interview, Obama called pot "a bad habit and a vice." He then compared it to "the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life," adding, "I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol."
"[I]n terms of its impact on the individual consumer," pot is actually safer than alcohol, Obama continued, although he stated that "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."
Even more strikingly, Obama confessed that the nation's war on weed is inherently unjust. "Middle-class kids don't get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do," he argued. "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 . . . 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."
Marijuana is already legal for recreational purposes in Colorado and Washington–the only two states sending football teams to the Superbowl on Feb. 2, by the way–and California has no less than three competing pot legalization initiatives heading for the November ballot.
UPDATE, Jan. 22 12:15 PM: Not surprisingly, any real hope that Obama's bluntly honest remarks on pot carry any real weight seems unfounded. Less than a week after Obama said pot was no more dangerous than alcohol–an admission that reveals the inherent hypocrisy and injustice of the war on weed–the White House is scrambling to play damage control.
Today, Obama's press secretary Jay Carney stated that in making his comments, which were published last Sunday in the New Yorker magazine, Obama was only referencing his belief that harsh sentences for marijuana offenders is unfair. However, he clarified, this does not mean he's changing his administration's policy on the drug.
"White House: marijuana policy has not changed," reads the headline in a blog post today in thehill.com's news blog, Briefing Room.
However, the story notes, Obama can't take back his admission that pot is no more dangerous than smoking cigarettes, an opinion that goes against his own Drug Czar office, which states that marijuana "can cause permanent brain damage and carries more carcinogens than tobacco smoke."