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Obama: I've Tried Marijuana and It's No More Dangerous than Alcohol, Cigarettes

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President Barack Obama says he smoked pot as a kid but warns his daughters against the vice.
As public opinion in the U.S. -- and here in St. Louis -- shifts towards tolerance of marijuana legalization, President Barack Obama calls pot a vice that's no more unhealthy than alcohol or cigarettes.

In an interview with the New Yorker, Obama seems less interested with how "healthy" marijuana is (or isn't) and is more concerned with racial and economic disparities when it comes to arrests and convictions for marijuana possession.

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"Middle class kids don't get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do," Obama says. "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."

Missouri currently has one inmate, Jeffrey Mizanskey, in jail for life without parole because of three non-violent, marijuana-related convictions -- the result of a decades-old law that ratchets up punishments for drug crimes faster than punishments for other felonies, like murder.

"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," Obama says. "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."

Mizanskey, a construction worker in Sedalia who occasionally sold a little weed to friends, will die in prison unless Governor Jay Nixon grants him clemency.

Obama, who admits he lit up when he was young, calls the drug a vice he warns his daughters against but says it's not as harmful to the individual user as other legal substances.

"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," Obama says. The federal government classifies marijuana as a schedule 1 substance, meaning it's highly dangerous and causes severe psychological and physical dependence, like heroin or ecstasy.

"I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol," Obama continues.

Two states, Colorado and Washington, have voted to legalize pot recreationally, and our neighbor Illinois just approved medical marijuana. But a similar move in Missouri seems far off.

See also: All Eyes on Colorado: 4 Reasons St. Louis Is Jealous of Legal Weed (And 1 Reason We're Not)

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Will this ever be legal in Missouri?
Here in St. Louis, activists are a few thousand signatures away from getting recreational pot on the 2014 ballot. Show Me Cannabis, a leading pro-legalization group, is researching ballot language before launching a campaign for signatures.

St. Louis residents recently voted overwhelmingly in favor of marijuana legalization on Mayor Francis Slay's weekly poll. According to the non-scientific poll, 90 percent of voters were in favor of making weed available for adults. Fifty-nine percent said laws for pot should be equal to laws on alcohol, including an age limit of 21.

Only three percent of voters said people arrested and convicted of marijuana-related crimes should go to jail.

For the first time in history, the majority of Americans now favor legalizing marijuana, according to a Gallup poll.

Follow Lindsay Toler on Twitter at @StLouisLindsay. E-mail the author at Lindsay.Toler@RiverfrontTimes.com.



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20 comments
Jay Lowther
Jay Lowther

Agreed. Bush is guilty too. Each election we get the same puppet in their shiny new Republicrat guise. Of course, if you dare criticize the ObaMao administration (or support your claim with evidence), you are instantly branded a religulous moron who sleeps each night with an AK-47 at their side and has a satellite uplink to Faux News beamed directly to their cranium. Because you have to choose a side, right Graham? Why let logic or reason be your guide? Silly half-wit.

George Cameron
George Cameron

Nope, that'd be me. And just because I dislike Obama and call a duck a duck doesn't make me a right-winger. It makes me honest. Something Obama could use some work on.

Steven Skelton
Steven Skelton

Graham, are you referring to me as the fux news viewer without a developed cerebral cortex?

Tammy Pendino
Tammy Pendino

We as a city are liberal and leftest-blue- if you will: yet as a whole state, we're mostly in the 'red right'. So, maybe, as a city alone law can past allowing St. Louis legal commercialization of marijuana and beauracrats can make use of the taxes from the marijuana sales to their advantage$$

Toni Zorich
Toni Zorich

Is he still our president. ;( Geez !! Lol

Steven Skelton
Steven Skelton

Jay, it amazes me the way the political left is completely silent about the abuses of this administration. The president maintains an active assassination list. Crickets from the left. It takes the administration two weeks to simply say that they are not allowed to kill Americans at will. Crickets from the left, except for ridicule of the senator who lead the filibuster. Lastly, as you point out, there has been no administration rating marijuana clinics the way this administration has. Not even the "evil" George W. Bush.

Jay Lowther
Jay Lowther

"A June 2013 report issued by Americans for Safe Access found that the DEA had carried out some 270 medical marijuana raids under Obama—twelve more than had been conducted in the previous twelve years combined."

George Cameron
George Cameron

^ pretty much this. I don't put much stock in the opinion of a liar, no matter how much I may agree with it.

Allen Ward
Allen Ward

Less talk, more action Barack. I don't care what he says, only what he does...and so far, he hasn't done a whole lot I like.

KITTY
KITTY

Finally the son of a bitch said something that makes sense. And for once he was not anti-American, pro-terrorist, anti-Israel or a fucking radical sociaist.

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