NEW YORK (MainStreet) Admitting that he "smoked pot as a kid," in an interview with the New Yorker magazine published this weekend, President Barack Obama urged the legalization of marijuana.
"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 said. "I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol."
With recreational retail sales of marijuana already allowed in Colorado and soon in Washington state public favor for legalization is growing.
In October, a Gallup survey reported a majority of Americans (58%) favored legalization of grass, while more than one-third (38%) admitted having tried it.
"With Americans' support for legalization quadrupling since 1969, and localities on the East Coast such as Portland, Maine, considering a symbolic referendum to legalize marijuana, it is clear that interest in this drug and these issues will remain elevated in the foreseeable future," the Gallup report said.
But Obama urged caution in regards to cannabis consumption.
"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," Obama told the New Yorker. "[But] we should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing."
Obama said that it was significant for legalization 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 the support for legalization of marijuana is still a generational issue. A YouGov survey of Americans fielded at the beginning of January revealed that half of Americans under the age of 65 tend to support legalization of marijuana, while half of Americans over the age of 65 want it to remain illegal.
The poll also found that more than half (51%) said that marijuana legalization would have a negative effect of increasing use among young people, but rejected the idea of marijuana leading to harder drugs (48%) and said that legalizing marijuana would not lead to increased crime rates (49%).
Still, Americans were evenly divided (on whether or not legalization would make highways more dangerous.
--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet