Deputy drug czar Michael Botticelli admitted today that marijuana, while dangerous, is not as deadly as other hard drugs, alcohol, or even prescription drugs. And though he's not in favor of legalizing weed, he is opposed to harsh jail sentences for its users.
Botticelli was questioned by Virginia representative Gerry Connolly in a hearing about Obama administration's marijuana policies with the snappy title "Mixed Signals." Though the exchange became heated at points ("I'm asking the questions here, Mr. Botticelli!"), Botticelli eventually said that no, marijuana is not a public health threat akin to alcohol or prescription drugs but still has "significant health consequences." It wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement, but it was similar President Obama's statements in his recent interview with The New Yorker.
Things ended on a conciliatory note when Botticelli noted that he is not in favor of legalizing marijuana (and people who are, he said, have not gotten a "fair and accurate view" of the drug's dangers), but that he did agree with the Obama administration's effort to move away from incarcerating marijuana users. Connolly agreed, saying that though he is a "child of the 60s," he is "extremely leery" of legalizing any drug. But putting people -- especially minority populations -- in jail for marijuana use as if they were violent criminals hasn't been effective.