Letters + Opinion » The Week in Weed

A High Endorsement



Pot talk reached a fever pitch in the nation's capital this week, culminating with President Barack Obama taking his strongest stance since taking office, saying in an interview released in the upcoming issue of the New Yorker that he thinks marijuana is no more harmful than cigarettes or alcohol and that he supports state legalization efforts in Washington and Colorado.

"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," a now presumably nicotine-free Obama told New Yorker Editor David Remnick. "I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol." In the interview, Obama takes on what many see as the proverbial elephant in the room of the marijuana prohibition conversation — the fact that poor people and minorities are disproportionately locked up for marijuana-related offenses, despite using the drug at rates similar to their counterparts. Obama cited such discrepancies in the criminal justice system as his reason for supporting legalization efforts in Colorado and Washington, saying "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."

But Obama stops far short of declaring pot harmless and says he has personally warned his daughters against smoking the stuff.

News of Obama's New Yorker comments broke just days after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told the Las Vegas Sun he'd come around to supporting medical marijuana, reversing years of opposition. Reid said he's seen enough evidence of potential medical benefits to believe Nevada voters did the right thing in 2000 when they legalized the drug's medical use in the state. But all the news coming out of Washington, D.C., wasn't so pot friendly. U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency Chief of Operations James Capra told law makers during a Senate hearing Jan. 15 that decriminalizing pot is "reckless and irresponsible," claiming the legalization experiment has failed in every part of the world where it has been tried, "time and time again." Capra's comments were quickly trumped in a fickle news cycle with word that one of his agents, Patrick Moen, was quitting his job to take one with Seattle's Privateer Holdings, a private equity firm specializing in marijuana industry holdings.


Children became the focal point of much of the medical marijuana debate this week. CNN reported on the battle surrounding 3-year-old Landon Riddle, whose acute lymphocytic leukemia is in remission after his mother started treating him with medical marijuana. Mom credits marijuana with the near miraculous turnaround, but doctors and others aren't so sure. Meanwhile, NPR reported on a Florida bill seeking to allow children suffering from severe seizure disorders to be treated with medical marijuana based on claims that a particular strain of weed — Charlotte's Web — is akin to a miracle drug.

The marijuana movement — medicinal or recreational — is also claiming some unwitting victims. NBC News reported Jan. 21 that calls reporting pet poisonings by marijuana have increased about 30 percent since 2009, according to the Animal Poison Control Center. Officials attributed the increase to pets getting into their owners stashes, eating their edibles and even drinking their bong water. The issue is no laughing matter, vets say, as dogs overdosing on pot can go into comas and die. Despite the increase in pot-related dog poisonings, the ASPCA still reports chocolate as the most common toxin consumed by canines.

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