Marijuana, which is still placed in the same category as heroin, ecstasy and psychedelic mushrooms by the federal government, is no more dangerous than alcohol, President Barack Obama said in an interview published Sunday.
Speaking to New Yorker editor David Remnick, Obama said he still viewed pot smoking negatively – but that on the whole, the drug wasn’t the social ill that it’s been viewed as in the past.
“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,” Obama told the weekly magazine.
The president said pot was actually less dangerous than alcohol “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer.”
“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,” he said.
As New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's administration deals with an unfolding political scandal involving top aides, another case involving accusations of cronyism has attracted new attention.
Bennett Barlyn, a former New Jersey assistant prosecutor, alleges he and other prosecutors were fired in 2010 for going after a local sheriff who happened to be close to Christie and the lieutenant governor.
Barlyn said the Hunterdon County sheriff and her staff were indicted on 43 counts involving corruption and abuse of power.
But then New Jersey's attorney general "swooped in and basically killed the case abruptly," Barlyn said on CNN's "New Day."
Then-Attorney General Paula Dow had claimed one of the prosecutors mispresented the case to the grand jury and had errors in his presentation, Barlyn said. All 43 counts were dismissed.
"There's no way that serious errors could have justified the dismissal of every count in the indictment," he argued. "In New Jersey, case law is very clear. It takes a tremendous amount of error to justify the dismissal of an indictment. It's very different than a jury trial."
A compromise Senate plan to pay for the cost of extending unemployment benefits ran into resistance Thursday from a group of Republicans whom the agreement was supposed to attract.
Those GOP senators, who had provided critical votes to Democrats to begin debate on the bill, said they wanted to make changes to the offsets and offer other amendments.
But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would not allow Republican amendments to the bill, angering GOP senators.
"I don't think it's going to fly," said Sen. Dan Coats, R-Indiana, a soft-spoken Senate veteran who had a testy floor exchange with Reid over the amendment issue. "Right now I will vote against this bill."
The 55-member Senate Democratic caucus can't pass the bill without help from Republicans to clear procedural hurdles that require 60 votes to pass.
"I don't think it's sustainable to shut everyone else out because, frankly, he needs six of us to say yes," said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.
Earlier Thursday, there seemed to be momentum for the compromise that would have offset the $18 billion cost of the benefits by keeping cuts to Medicare providers and by preventing people who get Social Security disability benefits from also getting unemployment checks.
The deal was brokered by Senate Democrats and GOP Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, one of the six Republicans who voted to take up the bill. But support for it quickly faded on policy and political grounds, especially after it became clear the other five Republicans were not part of the negotiations.
A key procedural vote on the compromise is scheduled for Monday.
Senators who were involved in the busy day of negotiations and recriminations said that they hoped cooler heads would prevail before Monday and that a new deal could be reached.
"It's not DOA yet," said Portman who said he would work over the weekend to try to reach an agreement.
"I'm just trying to keep everyone working, calm, and trying to get a solution," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.
"While today's session was a lot of bad blood, there is still a view on both sides that maybe we can get something done," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York. "Maybe, underlined."