Last week, President Obama was quoted in New Yorker magazine establishing that he indirectly feels marijuana is not dangerous enough to be considered a Schedule I controlled substance, “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. …I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”
Although many see this as progress, it is not enough, especially from a former editor of the Harvard Law Review, a trained lawyer and professional writer. Barack Obama knows the difference between facts and opinions, for him to make such a statement is the opposite of progress and should not be celebrated because he knows better.
In that singular statement, Obama compared cannabis use to two legal vice products, alcohol and tobacco. Let’s look at some quick facts about those two substances as compared to cannabis use:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 88,000 people die every year due to excessive alcohol use making it the “third leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the nation.” Short-term effects of alcohol use include: dehydration, violence, traffic injuries and deaths, accidental death, impaired judgment, sexually transmitted diseases, miscarriage, stillbirth and fetal defects in pregnant women and alcohol poisoning. Long-term health risks include dementia, stroke, neuropathy, social problems, psychiatric problems, cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver and breasts, hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver and gastrointestinal problems.
Now lets take a look at tobacco. Also according to the CDC, cigarette smoking causes one in every five deaths in the United States each year, claiming approximately 440,000 lives directly and about 50,000 from second-hand smoke inhalation every year making it the leading cause of preventable death in the country. Short-term effects include yellowed teeth, nails and skin, decreased immunity, shortness of breath and respiratory difficulties. Long-term effects include coronary heart disease, a variety of cancers, premature aging, stillbirth, low birth-weight, heart attacks, strokes, blood clots, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and decreased bone density.
Both alcohol and tobacco are legal because we tolerate their widespread use. We tolerate their widespread use because we know prohibition only creates dangerous black markets and that education is a more valuable tool in managing these dangers. The prohibition of these substances would be more dangerous than permitting them. Many people can use these products casually and cause no harm to themselves or others. Furthermore, we enjoy the windfall of taxes both products generate because the market will bear a higher price for these luxury items.
Obama would also know, if he did his due diligence before making such an ignorant statement, that the “dangers” of cannabis are in no way comparable to either alcohol or tobacco. Approximately 0 people die of marijuana overdoses annually. Short-term effects of cannabis use include red eyes, dry mouth, increased appetite, distorted sense of time, paranoia and slowed reaction time. There are no proven negative long-term effects of cannabis use, however more and more studies are proving the positive effects of long-term use for people suffering form cancer, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Dementia, Crohn’s Disease, Glaucoma, and many more fatal and chronic illnesses.
When juxtaposed with alcohol and tobacco, Obama’s statement would be laughable if it wasn’t so willfully ignorant. He continued on to say “It’s not something I encourage, and I’ve told my daughters I think it’s a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy.” What kind of example is Mr. Obama setting for his daughters when he makes such sweeping statements and policy decisions based on opinions rather than facts? Legislating by opinion rather than fact is also how we ended up with slavery, Jim Crow Laws, a war in Iraq, alcohol prohibition and the availability of gun sales without a background check.
It’s more than disappointing; it’s frightening that Obama would make such statements propagating blatant misinformation when so many people can benefit from the economic boom of legalization and hemp production and the plethora of medical applications available from the cannabis plant.
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