President Obama has reignited the debate over marijuana laws with his recent comments comparing pot to drinking. The President told "The New Yorker" magazine that marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol. Obama noted that he smoked pot as a kid, and that he views 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." The President went on to call the new laws legalizing marijuana in Colorado and Washington "experiments" that he thinks will be "a challenge."
The President's comments echo one of the biggest arguments of the pro-legalization crowd on marijuana--that it should be treated no different than alcohol. Addiction specialist Jason Powers tells KTRH that the President does have a point. "Alcohol has been with us for so long, it has cultural significance, and it is legal after a certain age, but it's still very, very bad for us," says Powers. "So it's actually true, what (the President) says." That doesn't mean Powers thinks legalizing marijuana is necessarily the solution. "We know that in the states where they are legalizing marijuana...it's getting into the hands of younger and younger people," he says. And for those younger people, pot use can lead to more dangerous drugs. "At some point it's going to stop doing the job for whatever it's being used to self-medicate for, so it leads to other things that way,” says Powers.
Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson is definitely no fan of the President's comments. In a statement, Anderson said she "adamantly" disagrees with Obama, adding that he is "recklessly giving what amounts to parental permission to our most impressionable citizens to break the law." Anderson goes on to say she is "acutely aware of the high price society pays for the misuse of alcohol...this is not a debate about whether alcohol or marijuana is more dangerous." Powers agrees that the two substances are both dangerous. "It's the same thing, but it's already bad enough," he says. "If you increase access, you increase problems."