Some might call it playing politics while others might call it an evolution on an idea, but President Obama’s recent comments about marijuana legalization were a clear step toward accepting legalization.
And while I’m sure many marijuana advocates will say his comments weren’t enough, I personally thought everything he said was spot-on.
President Obama said, in part:
“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.”
I like how he admitted that he did smoke marijuana when he was younger, but he was honest about there being addictive qualities which many (not all) marijuana advocates flatly deny that there are. But I can also appreciate his open admission that marijuana is not any more dangerous than alcohol.
In fact, many argue that it’s much safer. That’s a debate for another time, but his quote represented a stance he has never taken previously — and a first step toward “evolving” on marijuana as a whole.
But then he moved on to the issue many people have pointed to for years:
“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.”
About legalization in Washington and Colorado, he also said:
“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.”
This is absolutely true. Our jails are disproportionately filled with poor people and minorities where more affluent members of our society get away with committing the same “crime” others were harshly punished for.
But my favorite part of his comments came when he said that it made absolutely no sense for individuals to be locked up for long periods of time when the people who have written the drug laws “have probably done the same thing.”
This is also true. It really is hypocritical for someone who’s done something like used marijuana in the past to now suddenly advocate harsh prison sentences for people who are doing the same things they’ve done before – they just weren’t caught when they did it.
Either that or like President Obama said prior to these comments, they were just in a better socioeconomic situation which afforded them better protection against seeing the inside of a prison cell.
Hell, I’m willing to bet quite a few members of Congress use marijuana or other much harsher drugs. Which is probably why many oppose passing a law which would require random drug tests for members of Congress. Could you imagine if every single member of Congress was drug tested right now, without any warning?
Of the 535 members, how many would fail? I’d say easily one-third, if not more.
But I did like how President Obama warned that those who claim legalizing marijuana will suddenly cure all these social problems are, as he said, “probably overstating the case.”
Which I think is true as well. I’ve met quite a few marijuana advocates who refuse to believe that anything bad can come from legalizing the substance. Not that the negatives will be as catastrophic as many of the anti-marijuana people claim, but to believe that there will literally be no negatives that stem from legalization I think is a bit bias to their cause. And I say that as someone who now supports legalization.
But what I liked most about Obama’s comments was his honesty and openness. He didn’t bash marijuana, but he didn’t blatantly endorse it either. He addressed several key talking points marijuana advocates have pointed to for years. He’s made it clear he won’t get in the way of states legalizing the substance. It’s clear he’s viewing these states as experiments that will probably lead one day to full federal legalization.
Because as I’ve said several times before as it relates to marijuana legalization, I no longer believe it’s a question of if, but when it will be legal.