"I don't think [marijuana] is more dangerous than alcohol."
So said Barack Obama, once upon a time a teenage toker himself. He also described smoking the drug as nothing more than "a bad habit and a vice", but stopped short of endorsing the call for legalisation.
In deeply conservative America, this is a brave and bold statement. Even in the (relatively) more liberal UK, it's hard to imagine many politicians saying the same thing. In fact, when the chairman of the government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, David Nutt, did just that in 2009, he was sacked - and this despite the fact that fellow scientists, including the government's own chief science adviser, were adamant the evidence backed him up.
Max Daly, co-author of Narcomania: How Britain Got Hooked On Drugs, has argued in an article for Vice that "in 2014 governments around the world have a choice: either pull your
scaredy-cat head out of your arse and deal with drugs face-to-face like
an adult, or go down in a ball of narco-flames with the drug war losers". Both Obama's statement about the relative dangers of marijuana and his comment that poorer people and minorities are disproportionately punished for its use, which echoes one of Daly's arguments, suggest that the US might indeed be preparing to pull its scaredy-cat head out of its arse. What chance the UK following suit?
(Thanks to Adam for the Vice link.)