President Barack Obama recently said he does not believe pot is more dangerous than alcohol.
The comments have some people uneasy that he's downplaying the drug's addictive qualities, while others have praised his remarks.
The president told The New Yorker during a series of interviews that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol "in terms of its impact on the individual consumer."
"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,'' he said in the Jan. 27 issue. "I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol."
Obama said he's frustrated that poor children, many of them African American and Latinos, are a lot more likely to be put in jail for smoking marijuana than middle class kids.
"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.
However, the president said people who believe legalizing pot will solve social problems are "probably overstating the case."
"And the experiment that's going to be taking place in Colorado and Washington is going to be, I think, a challenge," he added.
Both states recently passed laws legalizing the possession and use of small amounts of marijuana.
Executive Director of Drug Policy Alliance Ethan Nadelmann commended the president's comments.
"[It] really puts the wind in the sails of the movement to end marijuana prohibition," he said.
Critics of the movement have raised concerns for public health and law enforcement. They warn wide availability of the drug could lead to heavier drug use, increased driving under the influence, and more crime.