“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 told The New Yorker’s David Remnick. “I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”
The president acknowledged marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer.”
“It’s not something I encourage,” Obama continued, “and I’ve told my daughters I think it’s a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy.”
Still, he said, “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.”
On the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington, Obama said, “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.”
Obama’s support of legalization was welcomed by pot advocates.
“The first step to improving our nation’s marijuana policy is admitting that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol,” Mason Tvert, director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement. “Now that he has recognized that laws jailing adults for using marijuana are inappropriate, it is time to amend for those errors and adopt a more fact-based marijuana policy.
But the president also said legalization is a slippery slope:
“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. 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? 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?”
His comments were part of a lengthy, wide-ranging profile published online Sunday. Some other notable quotes from the piece:
· Obama doesn’t have a son. But if he did, he “would not let my son play pro football.” He then compared concussion-prone football players to boxers and smokers: They all know the dangers. “At this point, there’s a little bit of caveat emptor,” Obama said. “These guys, they know what they’re doing. They know what they’re buying into. It is no longer a secret. It’s sort of the feeling I have about smokers.”
· Obama on losing some older white voters in the 2012 election: “There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black president. Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black president.”
His 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston put him on the map, politically, but critics say its theme — about Washington rising above partisan politics — was a fantasy. “My speech in Boston was an aspirational speech,” Obama countered. “It was not a description of our politics. It was a description of what I saw in the American people.”
· The president says he doesn’t watch “Meet The Press,” “Reliable Sources” or any of the Sunday political talk shows, for that matter. “I don’t watch Sunday-morning shows,” Obama said. “That’s been a well-established rule.” He usually spends them with his family or plays basketball.
· Obama on the expectations of the office during a second term: “The conventional wisdom is that a President’s second term is a matter of minimizing the damage and playing defense rather than playing offense. But, as I’ve reminded my team, the day after I was inaugurated for a second term, we’re in charge of the largest organization on earth, and our capacity to do some good, both domestically and around the world, is unsurpassed, even if nobody is paying attention.”