Smoking marijuana is not more harmful than alcohol, according to President Obama, in reference to the impact of marijuana on the individual consumer. In an interview with The New Yorker magazine released on Sunday, part of Obama’s reasons for advocating the legalization of marijuana stems from his belief that there are a disproportionate number of minorities who are arrested for marijuana-related activities, and it should not be the case.
Obama pointed out the scenario in which often, the poorer African-American and Latino children were less likely to have the resources, financially or otherwise, to avoid the penalties that come with arrests and imprisonments for marijuana use. Middle-class children, in comparison, were much less likely to face imprisonment for smoking pot.
Obama’s views on the legalization of marijuana and on marijuana smoking not being any more harmful than alcohol also comes from his own experience. He admits to having smoked pot as a child, and according to his latest published profile, sees it today as a vice that he has actively discouraged his daughters from trying, citing the habit as a “waste of time” and “not very healthy.”
Lawmakers should try to avoid being hypocritical against a drug that they probably experimented with themselves back in their youth, as per his own experience, Obama said.
Most recently, Colorado and Washington have decriminalized marijuana, while twenty-one U.S. states are readying for the tolerance of medical marijuana usage. Under U.S. federal law, marijuana currently remains illegal.
Obama is quick to point out, however, that the efforts to legalize marijuana may lead down a challenging slope for the controversial future legalization of harder, more dangerous drugs. Alongside the voice of critics are questions of whether easier access to marijuana will in turn lead to more frequent drug use and more crime.
As marijuana slowly becomes legalized, he is not blind to the challenges he believes will face Colorado and Washington. Any notion that the legalization of pot will in fact solve social ills should be dissipated, he cautioned.
Ethan Nadelmann, the Drug Policy Alliance’s executive director, applauded Obama’s stance on marijuana as Nadelmann believes it will truly be the start of the end the current marijuana prohibition.
Obama’s stance on marijuana may very well be part of the presidential legacy he is wanting to leave behind – as he also mentioned that he will be measuring himself by the level of progress he would have achieved towards reversing the “economic bifurcation” in the United States, as well as rebuilding America’s middle-class society.
Colorado’s Marijuana Policy
Under Colorado’s decriminalized marijuana policy, adults aged 21 and older can carry up to one ounce of marijuana on them, as well as grow marijuana plants up to a maximum count of six plants. Medical-marijuana patients are allowed to carry two ounces of marijuana on them.
While marijuana may be decriminalized in Colorado, the only location in which it may be smoked in with a clear allowance, according to the Denver Post, is a person’s own free-standing home. Smoking in public spaces, such as in schools, public parks or on the sidewalk, is not allowed. And neither is smoking in a privately owned building where the landlord has the right of refusal.
Marijuana possession, while now legal, cannot be within public spaces such as courthouses, national forests or federal buildings. Hence while several states are now proceeding under Obama’s green-light for marijuana smoking, there still remain strict rules around the drug usage as a cautionary note that while it may not more harmful than alcohol, it still remains a drug.
By Joscelyne Yu