Obama Says Pot Is No More Dangerous Than Alcohol

1/20/14 10:35AM EST

Obama Says Pot Is No More Dangerous Than Alcohol Obama Says Pot Is No More Dangerous Than Alcohol

President Obama believes marijuana is no less dangerous than alcohol, but that it should still be avoided by children, he said in an interview with The New Yorker.

“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. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol,” he said in the interview.

Quite the opposite, in fact. Marijuana is actually less dangerous, he said, “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 he does think the laws need to change. What bothers him most about current marijuana laws is how disproportionately they’re enforced.

Although Obama himself has largely stayed out of the nationwide marijuana debate, his administration has allowed states to experiment with various levels of marijuana legality. And opening the doors to at least partial legality is important for the country’s minorities and lower-class citizens.

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

It’s a well-known fact Obama used to smoke weed, and there are pictures to prove it. Possibly alluding to these younger years compared to his current status, 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.”

Recreational use of the drug is legal in Colorado and Washington, and the Obama administration has agreed to turn away and let the states experiment with the laws.

Obama says this is a step in the right direction. “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.”

He added, however, that the legal status of pot is not quite as important an issue as people are making it out to be. Legalized marijuana won’t be some sort of overarching remedy for social inequality issues.

And if marijuana is entirely legalized at some point in the future, it may raise issues on where to draw the line.

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?” he asked. “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 OK with that?”