WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama said he doesn’t think marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol, “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer.”
“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,” the president said in an interview posted on the New Yorker magazine’s website Sunday.
Smoking marijuana is “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.
In other comments appearing in the magazine’s Jan. 27 edition, Obama said racial tensions may have softened his popularity among white voters within the last two years.
“There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black president,” Obama said in his most direct comments on how race has affected his political standing since he’s been in office.
“Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black president,” Obama said.
Obama’s second term has been marked by controversies including a partial government shutdown in October, revelations that the National Security Agency has gathered personal cell phone data and the troubled rollout of health-insurance expansion.
Obama’s approval rating among all voters is 39 percent and his disapproval rating is 53 percent, according to a Gallup Poll conducted Jan. 14-16.
“Poll after poll makes it very clear that Obamacare and other job-killing policies are the reason” for the president’s decline in popularity, Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer said Sunday.
The president said he is troubled at the disproportionate number of arrests and imprisonments of minorities for marijuana use.
“Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do,” he said. “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.”
The president said it was important for the legalization of marijuana to go forward in Colorado and Washington to avoid a situation in which only a few are punished while a large portion of people have broken the law at one time or another.
But Obama urged a cautious approach to changing laws, saying that people who think legalizing pot will solve social problems are “probably overstating the case.”
No to pro football
Obama offered reflections on a variety of subjects, including his view about the dangers of playing professional football, which has been the subject of media scrutiny over players’ head injuries.
“I would not let my son play pro football,” the article quotes Obama, the father of two daughters, as saying. When asked how those dangers squared with his enjoyment of the game as a spectator, Obama said professional players are aware of the risk.
“They know what they’re buying into,” Obama said. “It is no longer a secret. It’s sort of the feeling I have about smokers, you know?”
President without a phone
Obama acknowledged that reports of U.S. surveillance programs, including allegations that the government tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone, had created a “breach of trust.”
Obama said he also assumes others are trying to spy on him, and for this reason he doesn’t have a phone.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.