President Obama caused quite a stir when he told the New Yorker’s David Remnick in a recent interview that he doesn’t believe marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol and that it’s “important” to allow legalization efforts in several states to proceed.
But according to the White House, the frenzied reaction to the president’s comments was much ado about nothing.
“No, the president’s position on these matters hasn’t changed,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Wednesday when he was asked whether Mr. Obama’s comments reflect a shift in drug enforcement policy. “When it comes to marijuana use, he made clear that he sees it as a bad habit and a vice and not something that he would encourage…but there’s no question that we’ve applied our drug laws in a way that’s been counterproductive.”
In the interview published Sunday, Mr. Obama said he was troubled by the racial and socioeconomic disparities in the application of drug laws.
“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.”
Carney underscored that point on Wednesday, saying the “experiment” in pot legalization currently underway in Colorado and Washington state may clarify a much-needed conversation about drug laws – but that doesn’t mean the president necessarily stands behind those legalization efforts.
“He’s talking about the issue of the disparities in our prosecution of our drug laws that an experiment like this may be addressing,” Carney explained. “He’s not endorsing any specific move by a state, he’s simply making an observation. His position on these matters has not changed.”