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Marijuana is bad but no worse than alcohol: Obama

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Recreational marijuana is legal in the states of Washington and Colorado. Medicinal use of cannabis, meanwhile, is allowed in 18 states. However, weed is still categorized by federal law as a drug that can be highly abused and is still classified on top of the chart of most dangerous drugs together with the likes of heroin, ecstasy, LSD, peyote, and methaqualone. While the federal government will most likely not change its stand on the issue, U.S. President Barack Obama wants legislations that will treat pot users fairly.

The president shared his thoughts in an interview with David Remnick, editor of "The New Yorker."

"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," Obama said, sharing his view on the realities of how society and the law deal with marijuana. "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 government has been trying to eradicate cannabis since 1979 starting with programs in California and Hawaii. The Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program expanded to cover 25 states and all 50 states by 1985. The Drug Enforcement Agency seized 354,023 kilograms of marijuana in 2012. During the same year, 30,476 drug-related domestic arrests were made by the DEA.

"...88.2 percent of responding agencies reported that marijuana availability was high in their jurisdictions. Marijuana smuggling into the United States has occurred at consistently high levels over the past 10 years, primarily across the US-Mexico border, where more than a million kilograms of marijuana are seized annually," states a report by the DEA quoting statistics from the National Drug Threat Survey. "High levels of marijuana availability are matched by high levels of domestic demand. According to national-level data, in 2011 more individuals reported having used marijuana in the past year than reported using all other drugs combined."

As a self-confessed marijuana user in the past, the president compares its impact to other vices people might be engaging in.

"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," Obama said when asked about the legalization of marijuana.

As a father thinking of his daughters, the president does not want daughters Malia and Sasha to try marijuana. "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," Obama said.

As a head of government, he is one with its stand. "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," the president 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?" Obama added.

Check out the infographic below on why a good chunk of the U.S. population wants marijuana to be legalized.


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