- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 19, 2014

President Obama believes the legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado ultimately may open a Pandora’s Box and could lead to calls for cocaine, methamphetamine and other drugs to be sold freely and openly.

But more broadly, the president downplayed the dangers of pot, comparing it to cigarettes and arguing it is no more dangerous than booze.

“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,” Mr. Obama said in a lengthy interview with The New Yorker. “I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”

Mr. Obama also took aim at the uneven arrest statistics regarding marijuana, saying poor and minority kids face much stiffer penalties for smoking pot than middle-class children.

The president said it’s important for the legalization of pot in Colorado and Washington “to go forward, because it’s important for a 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.”

Still, Mr. Obama said turning weed into a legal product raises serious questions that the U.S. must confront.

SEE ALSO: VIDEO: Emily Miller debates libertarians against legalizing marijuana on Fox Business

“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,” Mr. Obama said. “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 OK with that?”

The full interview is available here.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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