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. dnokc

    Stay tuned...we are constantly evolving!

    August 21, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  2. us_1776

    STOP letting politicians decide marijuana issues.

    START putting together State Ballot initiatives to FULLY LEGALIZE marijuana and completely end the horrible prohibition.

    DIRECT from the PEOPLE and INTO the LAW BOOKS.

    Marijuana legalization ballot initiatives. Coming to a state near you.

    .

    August 21, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  3. Patines

    So everybody knows, traffickers are demanding to be called "exporters", businesspeople supplying the needs/necessities of an expanding market. Of course, because of its size the US market is the most appealing.

    August 21, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  4. Joel

    Reply to Fair is Fair,
    Obama never wants the little guys! He only wants the big guys with money. So he can redistribute it. Since he never had a real job in his life, he doesn't have a clue in LIFE! None the less how to run a country.

    August 21, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  5. The Real Tom Paine

    First of all, until the Baggers in the House decide to move on this, the President can do nothing. It is up the Congress to move on this, and since the House is disinclined to do anything that does not appeal to its shrinking base, this will go nowhere.

    August 21, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  6. us_1776

    Please learn the difference between:

    LEGALIZATION = GOOD:
    LEGAL: Usage, possession and sale.
    RESULT: Black market, drug gangs and drug violence disappears.

    DECRIMINALIZATION = BAD:
    ILLEGAL: Usage and possession (but not punished).
    ILLEGAL: Sale
    RESULT: Does NOTHING to stop the black markets, the criminal drug gangs and cartels, and all the violence.

    MEDICAL MARIJUANA = BAD:
    ILLEGAL: Usage and possession (except in cases of medical prescription).
    ILLEGAL: Sale
    RESULT: Does NOTHING to stop the black markets, the criminal drug gangs and cartels, and all the violence.

    LEGALIZE and TAX NOW !!

    .

    August 21, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  7. Fon du Lac

    I'm still visiting my shed at 4:20 today

    August 21, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    "you can buy the stuff bub made in his bathtub and risk death"

    Except there's no risk of death from getting high on the ganj. NONE. You can die from ingesting too much of almost any other drug, including alcohol, but too much pot and all you do is take a nap....maybe after some giggling and a shameless attack on a bag of Doritos.

    August 21, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  9. coyolxauhqui

    let's nominate Sanjay Gupta for president 2016.

    August 21, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  10. Guy

    Days like this makes me glad I voted for Gary Johnson.

    August 21, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  11. herb folks nation

    Ok then let's have a conversation. But don't be confused about what the will of the people is, they have already spoken, loudly and profusely, for almost 20 years. Obama is the king of bait and switch, a typical lawyer-liar, as is his spokespunk AG Holder. We are not amused by these small men and their men-in-black swat teams who terrorize my people, the peaceful people of the plant. Its a damn good thing we are peaceful. Our lawyer, Bapu, insists on it. om out

    August 21, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  12. Sean

    Only question that matters to me is why does the Federal goverment oppose Cannabis so strongly? It obviously makes no practical sense so who's hand is in the $ cookie jar?

    August 21, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  13. us_1776

    Marijuana was completely LEGAL for the entire history of mankind up until 1934 when some underhanded business people wanted to kill the hemp industry.

    And in order to do that they also had to make marijuana illegal.

    And they did that by fabricating a whole bunch of ridiculous lies about marijuana (eg: Reefer Madness)

    LEGALIZE and TAX NOW !!

    .

    August 21, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  14. Jack 63

    Of course they are not going to change the laws. Yet. Maybe 3 months before the 2016 election though. That's when it would benefit the DNC the most.

    August 21, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  15. Mike in Denver

    Seriously. Half the country is demanding a proper classification of MJ. It certainly isn't Schedule 1. It was only put there "until more evidence could determine it's status" 40+ years later, here we are.

    August 21, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  16. blake

    WOW> Obama actually demonstrating a moral compass and some common sense.

    August 21, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  17. Richard F. Kessler

    If a sequel is written of J.F. K.'s Profiles in Courage, the Obama chapter will be missing. When it comes to having the courage of one's convictions, this President lacks both the convictions and the courage. Everyone has already seen through him for what he really is. Anyone who chooses to lead from behind is a follower following someone else's behind.

    August 21, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  18. The Real Tom Paine

    -The Real Issue

    The real issue with Gupta, is why, as a supposed rigorous scientific mind, did he take his previous anti-cannabis stance, without having review the evidence first?

    A person who is in a position of respect and power shouldn't come to have fully formed beliefs on the issues until they have at least looked at the available evidence.

    Gupta, you're a hack!
    *************
    He did just what you suggested he do, and changed his mind. He's not a hack, he's a scientist. Scientists are allowed to do that, unlike Republicans.

    August 21, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  19. Jack 63

    Let's hear it for moderate conservatives speaking their minds and keeping CNN moderators busy.

    August 21, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  20. JT

    What a cheap, pendantic answer. Of course the feds don't prosecute individual users... but the vast majority of states do so because they defer to the federal classification.

    Also, nobody really needs "clarification" on Obama's stance. What we need is for him to change it. That they keep repeating "It's the same stance as before" just shows how hard-headed and disconnected they are... take the hint, we keep asking you in order to give you the oppurtunity to change your mind.

    Obama has been a terrible dissappointment, and I don't see him ever changing (or living it down).

    August 21, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  21. Rudy NYC

    kman821 wrote:

    "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.

    How is this any different than his position on DOMA? Obama is no Liberal and lacks consistency.
    ------------------
    Not the funniest, but the most amusing post of the day so far.

    August 21, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  22. Jack Monsoon

    LOL...Can't wait to see what Bill Maher has to say about THIS one...The truth is that anyone saying that this is not a lame duck administration is wrong. Obama will not do anything controversial for the remainder of his term.

    August 21, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  23. ericgoestoholland

    It takes a truly brave politician to make big changes a reality. I don't think we've had a president like that yet.

    August 21, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  24. MagicPanties

    The end of prohibition didn't happen overnight either.
    This will be state by state, as is happening in WA and CO.
    Might take awhile, but it is inevitable.
    When WA and CO tax benefits become clear, things could really speed up.

    August 21, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  25. Data Driven

    "Legalize it
    Don't criticize it" - Peter Tosh

    August 21, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
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