At a press conference on Wednesday, President Barack Obama’s deputy press secretary Josh Earnest was asked whether the president’s stance on marijuana had changed.
Earnest 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.
Despite Obama’s unwillingness to change the law, his focus is apparently on major 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.”
Many have been hoping for a shift in policy from the Obama Administration, especially considering Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s recent stance change on medical marijuana. Gupta has released an apology to patients, claiming that he wrongly supported the idea that marijuana had no medical value. Gupta is considered one of the most influential physicians in the nation and was considered by Obama for Surgeon General, the nation’s leading spokesman on public health. Gupta withdrew his name from the running so he could continue his surgical career and spend more time with his family.
Obama last weighed in on the use of marijuana months ago, after Washington and Colorado legalized marijuana for recreational use.
“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?”
The statements from the Obama Administration come as Washington and Colorado push forward with implementing their recreational marijuana programs. Both states believe they have “tacit approval” from the Obama Administration, but have not received final confirmation from the Department of Justice or US Attorney General Eric Holder.