In the last week, the cannabis debate has risen after Obama’s comments comparing marijuana and alcohol. Obama expressed to the public that both substances are harmful depending upon the individual’s use of the substance. Since the statements have been released, questions have arisen concerning cannabis and whether Obama is the person willing to take on the change in federal law for this drug.
Prior to Obama’s time in office, neither presidents nor presidential candidates had been quite so open in admitting to using the drug in their younger years. Bill Clinton (former president and former governor of Arkansas) briefly admitted to experimenting with marijuana while a student in England. This statement came to the public’s attention more than 20 years ago in a New York Times article released on March 30th, 1992. He told the press at that time that he did not inhale. However, since then Obama has freely admitted to using cannabis in his younger years, and openly states that he believes it to be a bad habit. Obama has recently expressed to the public that in terms of the impact cannabis has on a person, alcohol is just as dangerous, and he has described the use of both substances, again, as bad habits.
However, Obama also reported that he is saddened at the increasing number of imprisonments and arrests that are made due to cannabis charges among minorities and the poor. As reported by BDC Radio, the president told The New Yorker that Latino and African-American kids are less likely to have resources to avoid harsh penalties and are more likely to be poor. Obama also stated that he does not believe users should be incarcerated for extended periods of time when there are those who write such laws who have done the same thing, smoking cannabis for recreation. It is statements such as this that have gotten the public’s attention and caused the cannabis debate to rise after Obama’s comments.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the words that the President has expressed concerning the effects of cannabis are preparing for decriminalization. Likewise, though the President has admitted to prior use and believes the effects are comparable to alcohol, the White House and the U.S. government still express their opposition to any change in dealing with cannabis charges and current laws for this the substance. Also, Obama urges the use of caution when dealing with marijuana laws. Stating that if people believe the legalization of cannabis use will assist social change, they are overstating their position. The San Francisco Chronicle also stated that they speak for the people of California in reporting that views concerning legalization must be met with restrictions.
Currently, the U.S. government classifies cannabis under its guidelines and effects as a Schedule I drug. This puts the drug in the same category as ecstasy, heroin, or other restricted drugs that possess no medical value. Since, Obama has released his statements comparing cannabis to alcohol, the public has risen within the debate on whether this substance is going to be further decriminalized.
The USA Today reports that there are increasing arguments stating that the use of marijuana is safer than other substances, however this is likely due to the fact that this drug does not cause people to drop dead immediately or have many of the side effects considered more dangerous by the medical field. Mason Tvert, the director of communications within the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington D.C., turns attention toward a World Health Organizational study on societal and health effects of cannabis compared to alcohol, nicotine, and other opiates. This report shows less risks in relation to the use of cannabis, but as USA Today states, there are other issues related to the use of marijuana such as lowering IQ rates, and productivity within heavy users. Likewise, there is a said one percent of heavy users that tend to experience psychosis.
So far, both Colorado and Washington have legalized cannabis for recreational use, 20 other states, as well as the District of Columbia have legalized this drug for medical purposes. The public hearing comparisons between alcohol and cannabis from such a respected leader has led to the cannabis debate rising after Obama’s comments. The public still remains up and down on whether this substance is gaining legitimacy in both the medical and recreational fields.
By Sarah Widger