Obama's remarks on pot spark debate among Pinoys

By Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Jan 22 2014 12:41 PM | Updated as of Jan 22 2014 08:41 PM

REDWOOD CITY, California – "Marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol," President Barack Obama said in an interview with The New Yorker.

He added that he smoked pot as a kid and he views it as "bad habit" and a "vice".

But the President pointed out that marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol, in terms of impact on the individual consumer.

Currently, 20 states and the District of Columbia have laws legalizing marijuana in some form. Only two states, Colorado and Washington, have allowed the recreational use of marijuana. Alaska, California, Washington DC, Oregon and Arizona may be the next states to legalize the sale of pot.

In Arizona, Representative Ruben Gallego said his proposed bill would allow people in the state to buy marijuana in stores, just like alcohol.

"This is for purely recreation use, like somebody who buys alcohol. And if you use it in a proper manner, in the privacy of your home — then you should be fine," he said.

Gallego believes legalizing the sale of marijuana will benefit the government through the taxes it will generate. He said most importantly, it will regulate the use of marijuana.

"What we want to do is basically bring marijuana outside the black market and into normal establishments that will have background checks, that will ask for ID's. That way, we’ll actually destroy the ability of individual drug dealers to be able to sell to young men and young women," he said.

Kababayans here have mixed reactions to the issue.

JR Santos said he’s fine with legalizing marijuana, "as long as it’s regulated like it is for alcohol. You have to be able to show that you’re responsible enough to consume it."

Others are against it.

Neil Gonzales expressed, "Di ako sang-ayon kasi magiging accessible sa mga kabataan maari silang malulong. Maaaring iba yung maging epekto para sa kanila."

"As a parent and grandparent, I don’t agree with it because the long-term effects of marijuana could lead to depression, aggression. It could impact relationships," said Marilyn Poland.

DrugFreeAZ.org’s newly-appointed program director, Filipino-American Thalia Williams said parents have a big responsibility to educate their children about marijuana.

She said, "The biggest focus we have at DrugFreeAz.org when it comes to marijuana is education. You must speak with your children about the dangers of marijuana. We are not giving a position when it refers to legalization but we do say that there is a danger involving with marijuana."

She said the average age of people using drugs in Arizona is thirteen. "That’s really young. You want to make sure you reach them before they get some bad information from another source," she added.

DrugFreeAZ.org said contrary to popular belief, marijuana is addictive and can cause memory and learning problems, hallucinations and delusions.