August 21st, 2013
02:34 PM ET
1 year 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. mirageseekr

    Of course they will still crackdown on pot, it is an easy bust (especially in legal states) keeps the prosecutors and the Feds record of achievements up there at a very low risk. Big Pharm is not ready to lose all the sales of worthless drugs, for things that marijuana works for. It should be a crime to deny people of using something that comes from nature that has medical benefits.

    August 21, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  2. Politics Above The Law - BAD

    Obama has no problem railroading amnesty for illegal immigrants through congress – despite states and the majority of americans that do not want it – BUT – he has a problem railroading changes in marijuana laws... (Selective Railroading)

    August 21, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  3. RichardSRussell

    Hypocrite! DOMA was the law of the land, too, as was "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" for a good chunk of your presidency, but you declined to defend or enforce THEM, so don't give us that BS line "It's the law, we've got to enforce it." Instead, get out in front of the issue (you know, that "hopey changey" thing) and lead the charge to make it NOT the law any more.

    How can you stare climate-change deniers in the eye and tell them they aren't following the science where it leads when you're doing the very same thing with regard to the science on marijuana?

    August 21, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  4. smith

    Sorry potheads. Anyway, if pot were legal no one would smoke it anymore because it would become uncool, not taboo, and to expensive.

    August 21, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  5. Peoplearedopeusers

    Let the pot addicts smoke up. They say more than 65% turn to heavier drugs after marijuana usage, good bye!

    August 21, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  6. UTOrange

    What a small minded little man we have for a president. He shouldn't even be allowed to utter the word freedom. If his kids were sick and cannabis was the answer, he'd send his flunkies out to find some but God forbid people are allowed to use this "plant". Yeah Mr. President....it's plant. Free country my ass.....the will of the people just keeps being ignored. Sad!

    August 21, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  7. mike

    "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. WHAT ABOUT IMMIGRATION, THERE ARE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS IN THIS COUNTRY YET OBAMA DOES NOT CARRY OUT LAWS. HE CHOOSES WHICH LAWS HE WANTS TO FOLLOW!!!!!!!

    August 21, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  8. Miked

    Don't tred on me.

    August 21, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  9. TJ

    Barack Obama - Status Quo You Can Believe In!

    What a complete and utter disappointment this man has been. He's singlehandedly taken away my desire to ever vote again.

    August 21, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  10. ummm

    Obama get over it already. This is your second term. LEGALIZE it!

    August 21, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  11. Kenny

    I ignore the law anyway.

    August 21, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  12. bryan

    thats odd I dident know the WH wrote laws...I must have been high

    August 21, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  13. Lostdorf

    Bad move by the White House Because people don't give a hoot of what the white house says, It still will be used whether they like or not. A little research will tell them that canabis is a medicinal plant and it's oil is considered to be a cure for cancer Colorado already has told the Feds to take a hike!

    August 21, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  14. CS

    So much for a CHANGE – lol.. The only thing he's changed has been ANYTHING that benefits him and his team.

    Notice DC has legalized MMJ recently – of ALL places. At least it's legal for Mr. O!

    August 21, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  15. Damon

    The courts will force him to change the scheduling. Lawsuits are waiting their time in court. They lie, and they know it.

    August 21, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  16. RockInD

    That just means he either hasn't yet recognized the economic capital in changing positions, or doesn"t want to use it up yet.

    August 21, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  17. claygooding

    Marijuana prohibition started as a corporate profit protection scam in 1037 and those same corporations want the ban on hemp kept in place,,plus the corporations that now exist only because of prohibition equals too much lobby money keeping prohibition in place regardless of science or common sense.
    We will have to take cannabis and hemp from the federal government one state at a time or until the federal government cannot get a conviction on a marijuana crime,,and we will. It is up to the congress how many billions more tax dollars they want to spend keeping prohibition going.

    August 21, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  18. Bart

    Conservatives keep saying how liberal Obama is, but the fact is he is very conservative on most issues. Really not much different to how Romney would have been in most areas excluding judicial nominations.

    August 21, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  19. Jack

    This is a crime. Rand Paul is our only hope for America!

    August 21, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  20. JT

    Roboyd01

    I feel betrayed on a daily basis for the fact that I supported this administration. Over the past year it has become clear that political pandering and maintaining the status quo is much more important to Obama than the people of this country. I only hope the broken 2 party system can be beaten and we can get a real leader in office in 2016. Shame on you Obama

    ------------------------------------

    Me too, brother. I can honestly say I grew disillusioned prior to the last election, but no way was I going to vote for Mitt. If we can't get a democratic candidate to support legalization it's not going to happen, ever.

    People are griping over the fact that the President doesn't make laws. Well he's the ideological head of the Democratic party (and if a Republican is president, he's the head of his respective party) which means that he sets the course for the rest of this party. Doesn't matter if he can actually change the laws, if he says "I think it ought to be legalized yesterday" then the rest of the party is supposed to fall in line and start working on legislation. Likewise, as the power taked with enforcing the law, he could issue a moratorium on all federal enforcment (basically decriminalization)

    August 21, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  21. Lostdorf

    I heard that the feds hold a patent for the Marijuana plant. If that is true, how can you hold a patent for something that grows everywhere?
    It's time to get rid of all these stale politicians, including Obama

    August 21, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  22. chris

    Just legalize it already. Whyare we wasting out time on this herb.

    August 21, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  23. Frank

    Marijuana should be the least important thing right now. With all the problems we have, puts marijuana in a low priority.

    We have way bigger priorities like keeping Americans working with enough money to feed themselves and family. We gotta make sure Americans are going to college and graduating. We gotta make sure Americans can afford health insurance and get enough medical care. We gotta make sure we afford good teachers. We need to find a way to bring the price of oil down, cuz gasoline is too expensive lately.

    There are just so many things more important than weed now, that no president would waste their time on it, unless he/she is a president who does not care one bit for it's citizens.

    August 21, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  24. Wake up People!

    What if your state already voted but your Republican Attorney General, who is constantly blaming weed for everything under the sun, who claims it's a Gateway drug, refuses to enforce it?? Also the republican run legislature is pretending it didn't pass. What then?

    August 21, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  25. just saying

    obama obviously has not evolved on this issue. he doesn't need any campaign donations.

    August 21, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
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