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. Fair is Fair

    "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."
    ------–
    Epic fail. As long as there's a supply of "individual users", there's going to be an offsettig demand for traffickers. Take the middleman out of the equation. Legalize it and tax the beejeezus out of it. On this one, the left has it right.

    August 21, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC

    "Why I changed my mind on weed."
    -------------------
    I love the title's double meaning. I salute anyone who can look the scientific method in the eye and change their opinions.

    August 21, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  3. CB FL

    Once the Repugs find out how much revenue will come out of making pot legal they will be all for it. Except all the governors that turned the prison system over there friends to make them private. They are making a lot of money putting pot users in these privately run prisons. Look what just happened here in Fl when they had a riot in a juvenile jail. During the riot the private security officers left the prison and called the Sherriff Dept.

    August 21, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  4. Patrick

    Only if the legal taxed pot is cheaper then the illegal pot will it make a difference. If the traffickers are selling it at a lower cost people will use them more.

    August 21, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  5. smartaz

    Bet the President takes a toke every now and again.

    August 21, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  6. RF

    When will they realize the war on drugs such as MJ is a complete and utter failure? There is NO reason it shouldn't be legal. Another failure of this administration.

    August 21, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  7. citizenUSA

    Boy, all these "smart" people and they can't figure out this is wrong? Even if you don't want to fully legalize it at least give it the proper classification.

    August 21, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  8. Duffman1982

    This proves Obama is a sackless whimp!

    August 21, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  9. Mac

    Hes the single greatest disappointment of my lifetime.

    August 21, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  10. tjp44

    so CB FL, you comment on the republicans, but this article is on Obama and his outdated stance on pot...pure and simple, a democrat....you learned well from Benghazi, deflect, deny and lie....related to the Clintons?

    August 21, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  11. Chris

    Fair is Fair

    "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."
    --–
    Epic fail. As long as there's a supply of "individual users", there's going to be an offsettig demand for traffickers. Take the middleman out of the equation. Legalize it and tax the beejeezus out of it. On this one, the left has it right.
    _____________
    I totally agree on this one as well. For once they have it right but Obumer will do nothing about it of course, nothing changes with him, do nothing as usual!!!

    August 21, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  12. Jeff S

    Why people pestering the White House. They should be pestering those they elect to represent them in the creation, modification of laws. The president is not part of the legislative branch.

    August 21, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  13. Chuck

    There is too much money wrapped up in the war on drugs for this to happen. This is the same reason why we are all not driving electric cars....

    August 21, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  14. TP

    I am surprised that our greedy government is not jumping all over this.....big money, almost more than oil.

    August 21, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  15. Mike

    Patrick that is wrong, would you but bootleg liquor from a possible cop because it was $5 dollars cheaper?. Besides weed would cost virtually nothing if mass produced by companies.

    August 21, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  16. tjp44

    CB FL......Obaman is not a republican and he is the bottle neck here....a democrat.......learned weel form Benghazi, defer, deny and lie....related to the Clinton's?

    August 21, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  17. Bill

    "The administration's position on this has been clear and consistent for some time now,""

    Ya, who can miss this "Herp-a-derp" policy of willful ignorance and tyranny.

    The only problem, then, is Obama's clear & consistent record of changing positions and... uhm... lying about it.

    So, Obama, how is that "No more spying of Americans" going? Ya... I thought so...

    August 21, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  18. Andrew

    You're now, officially part of the problem, mr. Presuident.

    August 21, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  19. DT

    At least we know he isn't going to ram it down our throats at midnight like he did Obamacare.

    August 21, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  20. John

    He would not want to upset one of the largest employers in the country, the penal system. When the war on drugs ends the penal system will be limited to real crime. This is unacceptable to Obama and his lobbyists.

    August 21, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  21. Jason

    Sensible drug laws won't happen until things like big pharma and private prisons are not longer allowed to lobby. Why would President Obama want to cut such a gigantic source of income?

    August 21, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  22. Clyde

    "Only if the legal taxed pot is cheaper then the illegal pot will it make a difference. If the traffickers are selling it at a lower cost people will use them more."

    That isn't true at all. If you had the choice to buy a case of beer for $15 at the store, but you could buy it for $10 from some shady guy who you have to text and then wait around for an hour to show up (if he even shows up), or go drive to some sketchy part of town to meet up with – people are going to go for convenience, and they will pay a premium (tax) for that convenience.

    August 21, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  23. Josh

    The best solution is to put this issue into the realm of public health and out of the hands of law enforcement. yes, there is reason to believe that abuse can be destructive and accessibility could cause further risk, but we need to address this at the societal and cultural level and have a grown up conversation about this. We are moving forward and it has been known for too long that the war on drugs is a failure and causes more harm than good.

    Obama generally has my support, but I do not agree with his approach to this issue.

    August 21, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  24. Taroya

    "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"

    Now, THAT is a contradictory statement.
    How are they going to get medical marijuana with no dispensery? Grow it? Do they know how to do that? Do they know how to break it down to obtain the medicinal portions?

    August 21, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  25. Sniffit

    "Once the Repugs find out how much revenue will come out of making pot legal they will be all for it."

    No they won't. They've taken the positions they have taken because their ultimate goal is to "starve the beast" and destroy the federal gov't. They don't want to tap into new sources of revenue at all.

    August 21, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
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