A columnist has said Barack Obama is “profoundly wrong” to say that cannabis is no more dangerous than alcohol.
Writing in The Times, Robert Crampton criticised the President’s remarks, as cannabis has “fundamentally changed” since Obama and other middle-aged politicians smoked the drug, and now the “prospect of grave mental instability has arrived”.
In a recent interview for The New Yorker, President Obama said he views smoking cannabis – which he did when he was younger – as “a bad habit and a vice”, and not very different from cigarettes.
Although he wouldn’t “encourage” the practice, he thinks that in terms of its “impact on the individual consumer”, the drug is no more dangerous than alcohol.
But Mr Crampton warned: “The illegal drug regarded as the least harmful is the one most likely to send people round the bend.”
He spoke to the founder of a Swiss rehabilitation centre who said cannabis addiction is the hardest to break, and is the drug “most capable of causing the most profound and least reversible neurological damage”.
The founder also said cannabis “could inflict such damage quickly, in the brains of young and otherwise healthy people”.
Mr Crampton said a “big mistake is being made” and Governments should be making cannabis “harder to acquire, not easier”.
Earlier this month, Colorado became the first US state to legalise cannabis for recreational use.
Kevin Sabet, of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) warned that the move is “opening the doors to allowing a new, powerful industry to downplay the effects of a substance they will be profiting off of and to downplay the effects of addiction”.
A major study in 2011 found that cannabis use in teenage years can double the risk of mental illness in the next decade.
The research – carried out by a range of European scientists – followed the lives of nearly 2000 young Germans over a ten-year period, and concluded that using cannabis can actually induce paranoia and hallucinations.
Home Office minister Norman Baker is currently reviewing drugs policies around the world and has said legalising cannabis should be considered alongside other options.