CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Controversy is stirring after President Obama says he does not think marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol. The comments came in an interview with "The New Yorker." During the interview, the president also admits he smoked marijuana frequently in his youth, but says "it's not something I encourage, and I've told my daughters I think it's a bad idea."
This story has received hundreds of shares and comments on the KFVS Facebook page. However, the buzz is not only happening on social media. Law enforcement, family counselors, and those who want to legalize marijuana are speaking out about the president's comments.
"He's kind of given a green light to marijuana usage," said Kevin Glaser, an officer with the SEMO Drug Task Force. "Most law enforcement [officers] are probably going to be very disappointed with the stance he's come out and taken."
Glaser says the president minimized America's alcohol problem when he said, "I don't think it [marijuana] is more dangerous than alcohol."
"We typically lose about 88,000 people to alcohol related deaths and he's saying that the marijuana usage is no worse than that," Glaser said. "So, that's ok, we can lose another 88,000 people to marijuana abuse?"
Glaser also says the president's statement was not grounded in facts.
"There's a lot we still do not know about marijuana, the long term consequences, the health consequences," Glaser said.
However, others agree with Obama.
"I don't think it's particularly surprising that he believes this," said John Payne, the executive director of Show-Me Cannabis, an association of organizations and individuals who are in favor of legalizing marijuana similar to alcohol. "I think that most people in America believe that marijuana is certainly no more harmful and possibly less harmful than alcohol."
Payne says the drug should be legalized and the president's comments are moving more conversations in that direction.
"Although he did not take the step of saying that it should be legalized, I think a lot of Americans are willing to make that jump," Payne said.
Dr. Sharon Braun works with people who suffer from drug addictions. She says she does not agree with Obama's comparison between marijuana and alcohol.
"Marijuana and alcohol side effects are very different," Dr. Braun said.
Dr. Braun says one of her biggest concerns is for children who hear President Obama's message and think marijuana is okay to use,
"There are children, adolescents, with drug and alcohol problems," Dr. Braun said.
The president's comments are continuing to fuel a larger conversation nationwide about marijuana legalization.