President Barrack Obama thinks Colorado and Washington are blazing a trail with marijuana legalization the rest of the nation should consider, telling the New Yorker that racial disparity in marijuana arrests need to end.
“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 told the New Yorker.
The President went on to point out that “Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do,” facts backed up by arrest statistics from around the country – including Obama’s adopted home state of Illinois, which arrests blacks up to six times more frequently than whites for the exact same “crime” of marijuana possession.
He says Colorado and Washington are changing that, however. “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.”
The president said that “it’s important for it to go forward [like Colorado and Washington have done]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.”
Notably in the interview, the President says that smoking pot is no more dangerous than alcohol. He did call smoking pot a “bad habit and a vice” and says it is not something he encourages. “In terms of its impact on the individual consumer. 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.”
But despite his somewhat progressive and honest approach to marijuana in the interview, he also took up the anti-pot arguments and said there was some validity to them:
“The experiment that’s going to be taking place in Colorado and Washington is going to be, I think, a challenge,” he said. “I also think that, 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?”
So far the Obama administration has allowed Colorado’s pot legalization and legalized sales to move forward, though that doesn’t mean the feds won’t be involved. During the 2008 presidential election, Obama made promises about stopping federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries. Once elected, he quickly became known as the president who raided more medical marijuana growers than the conservative president before him. That said, Obama has also allowed more medical marijuana facilities to open and operate under his presidency than anyone else.