Obama's pot comments could help legalization efforts in states

Dylan Stableford
Yahoo News
President Barack Obama talks about National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance, Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, at the Justice Department in Washington.Seeking to calm a furor over U.S. surveillance, the president called for ending the government's control of phone data from hundreds of millions of Americans and immediately ordered intelligence agencies to get a secretive court's permission before accessing the records. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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President Barack Obama's comments on marijuana, published in the New Yorker magazine over the weekend, could help legalization efforts in several states, including Oregon, the Statesman Journal reports.

“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 told the magazine. "I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”

The president's comments "will certainly have an impact on voters in the state of Oregon,” Rep. Vicki Berger told the Statesman.

According to the newspaper, Democratic lawmakers plan to introduce a legislative referral next month that would ask voters whether they want recreational marijuana legalized. Similar efforts are under way in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine.

The president's views "will influence people throughout the country,” Donald Moorse, a Portland, Ore., medical marijuana dispensary owner, told the paper. “I think that’s why he made the comments.”

The president acknowledged marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer."

Asked about the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington, Obama 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.”

In Colorado, where a law legalizing recreational marijuana went into effect on Jan. 1, Obama's pro-pot comments were front-page news, even appearing above the Denver Broncos' win over the New England Patriots on Monday's cover of the Denver Post.

Last week, the New Hampshire House of Representatives became the first state legislature to vote in favor of a bill to legalize the sale and possession of recreational marijuana, which, if signed into law, could entice Vermont to do the same.

According to VermontWatchdog.org, a bill to legalize the sale and possession of pot will be on this session's agenda in Montpelier.

The support was welcomed by pot advocates.

“The first step to improving our nation’s marijuana policy is admitting that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol," Mason Tvert, director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement. "Now that he has recognized that laws jailing adults for using marijuana are inappropriate, it is time to amend for those errors and adopt a more fact-based marijuana policy.

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