President Barack Obama Weighs In On The Growing Debate Over Marijuana

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.

President Barack Obama recently jumped back into the national debate over the legalization of marijuana, offering his thoughts on the issue and the savage inequalities endemic to drug enforcement policy in the United States, especially with respect to the rates of imprisonment amongst minorities arrested on drug possession charges related to marijuana. The president laid out his feelings in a recent interview with The New Yorker, where he stated his own stance on the use and effects of the drug. He also posed serious questions about the uncharted territory that legalization of the drug could find policy makers wading into as individual states and the nation at large are forced to take a closer look at the limitations placed on other, more dangerous illegal substances:

“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.”

When asked about the dangers of the drug, POTUS responded:

“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.”

The most troubling issue for President Obama is not an individual's choice to use the drug, but the stiff punishments related to possession for people from lower income communities:

“Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do,” he said. “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.” But, 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.” Accordingly, he said of the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington that “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.”

Continuing, he noted:

“Having said all that, those who argue that legalizing marijuana is a panacea and it solves all these social problems I think are probably overstating the case. There is a lot of hair on that policy. And the experiment that’s going to be taking place in Colorado and Washington is going to be, I think, a challenge.” He noted the slippery-slope arguments that might arise. “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?”

While the POTUS delves into the difficult side of the debate with some tough questions, he also represents an increasingly popular and progressive attitude toward marijuana and its place in the everyday lives of U.S. citizens. Like many other issues facing the nation, only time will tell where the populace and federal policy finally land with respect to pot. Read the full article by David Remnick via Let us know what you think about legalization efforts and the political side of the ongoing marijuana debate in the comments below.