Feature

Marijuana: Obama’s change of heart

The president has come very close “to endorsing outright legalization” of weed, noting that it’s no more harmful than alcohol.

For supporters of marijuana legalization, it’s a major milestone, said George Zornick in The Washington Post. President Obama has come very close “to endorsing outright legalization” of weed, noting that it’s no more harmful than alcohol, and saying it’s unfair that the vast majority of people busted for weed are black and Hispanic kids from poor neighborhoods. In an interview with The New Yorker, the president ruefully noted that it was well-known that “I smoked pot as a kid,” and said he now views it as “a bad habit and a vice” that he wouldn’t want to see his daughters take up. But in a major change for a president who once advocated strong enforcement of federal marijuana laws, Obama expressed qualified support for the legalization of cannabis in Colorado and Washington, saying society should not have laws for which “a select few get punished.”

What do you expect from the guy who was once the biggest stoner in his high school’s “Choom Gang”? said Ed Rogers in WashingtonPost.com. By claiming that smoking marijuana is on par with cigarettes or alcohol, the president sent a “dangerous” message, telling kids that “doing drugs is not a big deal.” In reality, marijuana use can be addictive, said former federal drug czar William Bennett inCNN.com. Just ask Lady Gaga. The pop star recently disclosed that she smoked up to 20 joints a day as a form of “self-medication” for anxiety, “numbing myself completely.” She’s hardly alone. The 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 4.3 million Americans have “marijuana dependence,” and some are adolescents. Legalizing it would open the door to more abuse.

Obama actually said he was worried about that, said Peter Grier in CSMonitor.com. So why did he switch positions, and warily step into the public debate over marijuana now? Just as he did in his belated “evolution” on gay marriage, Obama appears to be following popular opinion. A recent poll found that 58 percent of Americans now support legalization, with support jumping 10 points in just one year. With other states now eyeing changes in their marijuana laws, Obama and the Democrats clearly have decided to embrace legalization as a way of winning the allegiance of young voters. As a younger stoner, Obama saw weed as a source of fun; now, as president, he sees it as a source of “serious political rewards.”

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