August 21st, 2013
02:34 PM ET
11 months ago

No change in marijuana laws coming, White House says

(CNN) – President Barack Obama isn't looking to change current federal laws dictating the classification of marijuana, his spokesman explained Wednesday.

Josh Earnest, the deputy press secretary, said Obama "does not, at this point, advocate a change in the law" that places marijuana in the same class of drugs as heroin, ecstasy and psychedelic mushrooms, and which deems cannabis to have no medical use.

Responding to a question from CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellin, Earnest described the Obama administration's position on marijuana as mainly focused on prosecuting drug traffickers rather than individual users.

"The administration's position on this has been clear and consistent for some time now," he said. "While the prosecution of drug traffickers remains an important priority, the president and the administration believe that the targeting of individual marijuana users, especially those with serious illnesses and their caregivers, is not the best allocation of federal law enforcement resources."

A day earlier, Earnest said he couldn't say whether or not the president's personal views on medical marijuana had changed as he had not seen a column and documentary written by CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, which detailed Gupta's own shift on the issue.

Obama considered naming Gupta as surgeon general in 2009, but the neurosurgeon later said he withdrew his name so he could maintain his surgical career and continue spending time with his family.

Gupta's online essay on marijuana, published August 9, was titled "Why I changed my mind on weed." In it, he described changing his own stance on medical marijuana after researching the topic for his CNN documentary "Weed."

He also apologized for what he said was his misguided previous stance.

"I apologize because I didn't look hard enough, until now," Gupta wrote. "I didn't look far enough. I didn't review papers from smaller labs in other countries doing some remarkable research, and I was too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis."

Obama last weighed in on the use of marijuana after two states – Washington and Colorado – legalized the recreational use of the drug.

"This is a tough problem, because Congress has not yet changed the law," Obama told Barbara Walters of ABC News. "I head up the executive branch; we're supposed to be carrying out laws. And so what we're going to need to have is a conversation about, How do you reconcile a federal law that still says marijuana is a federal offense and state laws that say that it's legal?"

Supporters of medical marijuana have largely been disappointed in the Obama administration's record on the issue. While many were hopeful Obama would discontinue Bush-era crackdowns on dispensaries in states allowing the medical use of cannabis, those raids have ramped up since 2011. Users of medical marijuana, however, have mostly been left alone by the federal government.


Filed under: drug trafficking • President Obama
soundoff (158 Responses)
  1. keeroc15

    what – are you kidding me ? the Obama handlers are evil people.

    August 21, 2013 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  2. mike

    to much money to be made from private prison systems and to much money for big pharmy to lose if it were changed......obama is a puppet and a tool and so is the rest of our career politicians as they no longer listen to what the people want but tell us what we need wether we like it or not

    August 21, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  3. Jl

    A taxable product, with countless uses in the medicinal, industrial, food and recreational industry is illegal under an undisclosed basis. Not only is life and liberty threatened under this premise, but the law as well. One can longer confidently consult government data even in the simplest matter of a drug classification. All government information is then called into question and we are left with a breakdown in the confidence of our policy makers. The enforcement of the law based on the current classification can then only be best described as an abuse of power. This is far worse a standard to set in a republic than the standard set by legalization. As it deteriorates the precepts of a republic slowly metastasizing it into authoritarianism and invites justified civil disobedience.

    August 21, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  4. Bill

    It is immoral to put someone in a cage because he/she decideds to smoke some vegetable matter. People are pretty silly.

    August 21, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  5. Independent

    This is your chance Obama, if you push this you will change a lot of peoples view of you, it will show you are not bought and paid for by corporate America!! This is the time!(well the time was long ago but here we are)

    August 21, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  6. keeroc15

    These "public servants" are out of control. The aristocrats paid a heavy price during the French revolution. One can only hope that history repeats itself.

    August 21, 2013 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  7. gangsterific

    Very disappointed with Obama. Only reason I voted for him.

    August 21, 2013 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  8. This guy has serious issues

    Yep, same old same old. Too much really big money involved to change the laws. From the prison lobby, to the law enforcement lobby, federal and state, alcohol and tobacco lobbys. None of these businesses want to see change in weed laws. Too much money envolved.

    August 21, 2013 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
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