The Obama Administration: Weed about as Dangerous as Alcohol

Over the course of his presidency, there have been several instances in which Barrack Obama has been asked whether he partook of marijuana as a youth. President Obama has always been frank about having smoked weed. He has stated that although he has smoked both cannibals and tobacco in the past, he views both as a vice. Interestingly, however, the president recently had this to say in a magazine interview, “I don’t think it’s more dangerous than alcohol.”

The president went on to say that he doesn’t encourage the use of the drug, and that he has advised his children to stay away from it. Still, there is little evidence to support the assertion that marijuana is dangerous to one’s health.

Marijuana remains illegal to sell or possess at the federal level, although two states—Colorado and Washington—have created state laws that make it okay to possess it in small amounts. Indeed, these two states are in a race to facilitate the recreational sale of cannabis, and huge retail outlets are in the works. So far, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medicinal use.

Weed Compared to Alcohol

According to the Centers for Disease Control, over 80,000 people per year die from alcohol abuse. As of 2014, there have been no deaths attributed to marijuana use. In fact, the CDC doesn’t have an official category for such deaths. The journal American Scientist recently reported that alcohol is one of the most toxic substances consumed by the populace, and that indulging in 10 times more alcohol than is required to become “drunk” can cause death. In contrast, marijuana was found to be one of the least toxic drugs of all as one would have to ingest several pounds of the plant in one sitting to consume a lethal dose.

According to a paper published by the British Columbia Mental Health and Addictions Journal, health-related costs for alcohol users are around eight times greater than those who abstain from alcohol but use marijuana. In terms of dollars and cents, the annual cost of health care for alcohol-related events were found to be $165 per user, compared to just $20 for marijuana users.

Addictive Potential of Pot

Several studies have shown that heavy users of cannibals are at the most risk of becoming hooked, and that only around 9% of these become addicted. In 2006, the UK Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs released a report stating that marijuana is far less addictive than caffeine, alcohol, cocaine, heroin or tobacco. However, the report also notes that it is possible to develop a tolerance to pot over time, meaning that you may have to consume more to achieve the same high as time goes on.

The Socioeconomic Reality

President Obama has been critical of the way that federal marijuana laws are enforced, citing disproportionate arrests between whites and minorities. Obama notes that Latino and African American kids are more likely to be poor and are therefore unable to defend themselves against the harsh penalties that other racial groups easily avoid by securing counsel.

Says Obama, “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.” Indeed, many politicians have admitted to smoking weed including Bill Clinton, Jessi Ventura, Bill Thomson and Arnold Schwarzenegger. What’s more, several politicians view the recent state-level legalization of pot in Colorado and Washington as important experiments because, as notes Obama, it is unfair to have laws barring an activity that many people enjoy yet only a select few are punished for.