August 21st, 2013
02:34 PM ET
8 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. tropett

    An illegal plant. Isn't there something in the bible about God putting herbs on this planet for our use? What is being lost in all this is that we are unable to make full use of the hemp plant. We have a planet that is starting to broil and and environment that is coming apart at the seams and this miracle plants sits idle because a criminal government can't separate it from the strain its intelligence agencies profit off of to finance covert operations. I think the time has come for folks to start realizing that we humans look good on paper but no so good in practice. We just don't seem to have that tricky mixture of intelligence and farsightedness needed to survive.

    August 21, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  2. Lostdorf

    I used to like Obama, but now he has turned into a backward politician, Get rid of him

    August 21, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  3. Jim

    Hmm well since MOST of the states want weed legalized/ decriminalized why have the feds not listened. They are blatantly ignoring states rights. This is all over the spectrum, not just with weed....

    Hmmm I remember another time when the states rights were not respected. Mid 1800s anyone?

    August 21, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  4. greennnnnn

    The least they could do is change the classification. It's utterly ridiculous to have it in the same class as heroin, etc. It should be in a class with alcohol, even though alcohol is more dangerous.

    August 21, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  5. ????

    Marijuana may well be legalized in the near future.
    From a personal health standpoint, I would never condone it's use any more than I would encourage tobacco use in any form.
    Your opinion may be different.

    August 21, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  6. aspblom

    MJ is illegal in all states just as segregation was illegal in all states despite being on the books of several states.

    August 21, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  7. ToolTime

    It's official, our government is completely out of touch. First the NSA, increased wiretapping (even AFTER 80% public outcry of spying), and now this. Can't wait for the revolution, see you there.

    August 21, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  8. triplegator

    Obama on financial regulation: “I refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer,” Mr. Obama declared, beneath a “We Can’t Wait” banner. “When Congress refuses to act and — as a result — hurts our economy and puts people at risk, I have an obligation as president to do what I can without them.”

    Obama on marijuana legalization: "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."

    August 21, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  9. JJ

    Wrong. Yes, they are, and yes, they will. This is not up to you politicians to decide. Period, end of discussion.

    August 21, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  10. landru

    Of course they don't want to go against the big Pharm and it's lobby (not to mention the massive campaign donations). So let"s keep spending billions of dollars on the "War on Drugs" which we are losing. Legalize it, tax it, regulate it, and move on to real drugs and the real damage they do.

    August 21, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  11. wotm8

    "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."

    So the drug is deemed as having no medical benefits yet we'll ensure we put those using it for medical purposes on a low priority for prosecution list.

    August 21, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  12. CSD

    Well, at least Obummer is showing the same scientific ignorance as those on the right proudly display on topics like global climate change. More proof Rethuglicans and Dummocrats can wear a mantle of stupidity with equal aplomb. And both generally don their ignorance when it is financially beneficial to them by way of their pharma and petro owners.

    August 21, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  13. Bud Lee

    I am so disappointed in this president for this reason alone. No matter what his personal opinion is he should at least listen to what the will of the people is. Right now a majority of people want legalization. That should count for at least a review of the WH policy. Don't make me for a regressive nut job just because of this one issue.

    August 21, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  14. Paul

    Talk about making every young person in the country mad at Democrats all at one time.

    August 21, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  15. Jon Martin

    For Obama, its not a political issue or even a criminal issue... Its a RACE issue for Obama... What does the first black US President do, legalize marijuana, which by FBI statistics/estimates, is more widely used in the black population on a % basis than white population... There is no way he wants to be remembered for pushing that through, simply because of his race... I guarantee it will not happen during his administration for that simple fact....regardless of the overwhelming benefits of doing so vs the negative impacts.... in my humble opinion

    August 21, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  16. george

    they know something we don't.

    August 21, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  17. carol brady

    Well Hilary will legalize it...as she tokes on a doobie!

    August 21, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  18. Ben

    Unbelievable.... For those that disagree with marijuana, all should at least come to terms that when locals agree on an issue no matter what it be, then it should be respected by the government. For the people by the people, it really shouldn't matter what some high ranking government officials view point is. When something is supported by the majority of the people, then the government should serve its people. We are not living in a time of monarchy or living under a dictator.

    August 21, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  19. kerfluffle

    We The People

    Keep at it folks.

    Free the weed.

    August 21, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  20. Bubba

    So we should consider Obama's youthful pot use in the same category as if he were trying heroin?

    August 21, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  21. Morgan King

    While a lack of federal action is disappointing, it's hardly worth engaging with the trainwreck that the House and Senate have become anyway. This is the king of change that State laws are made for, and it's a popular enough idea to get local and state politicians something to galvanize voters with.

    August 21, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  22. Paul

    " The "White House", aka the Obama Administration once again fails miserably at leadership when it comes to "human rights" issues. Literally hundreds of thousands of human beings are in prison today due to the absurd and inhuman drug laws which benefit no one but the "for profit" private prison system!

    What a pathetic, weak stance on an issue that should be governed by science and not false morality – politics anyone?

    August 21, 2013 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  23. Aerokid

    Remeber folks, just like with alcohol, a place where you want to be employeed can still say you can't have it in your system and there can also be plenty of rules on how much THC levels you can have to drive. Don't think legalizing it will keep people out of jail or gainfully employeed for using it

    August 21, 2013 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  24. mass_opiate_or_opiate_of_masses?

    Don't worry Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush Jr., and Obama, I understand that you need illicit profits from drug sales to fund secret operations. Just for the record Nixon was my hero too lol:-)

    August 21, 2013 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  25. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    Bah humbug! Get with the program Washington.

    August 21, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
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