President Obama Breaks His Silence on Marijuana Legalization: We’ve Got Bigger Fish to Fry Than Cannabis Users

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director December 14, 2012

    Breaking his silence on the topic of marijuana legalization since two states approved ballot initiatives to regulate cannabis, President Barack Obama addressed the issue in an interview with Barbara Walters this week.

    While the administration’s broader policy is still being developed, the president stated that arresting recreational users in these states would not be a priority.

    “We’ve got bigger fish to fry. It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal. – President Obama

    The president also clarified that he personally is not in favor of leglization, but that it is a more complex issue than his own view on it:

    “This is a tough problem, because Congress has not yet changed the law. 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?” – President Obama

    One line stands out as particularly interesting, during his answer he says:

    “What I think is, that at this point, in Washington and Colorado, you’ve seen the voters speak on this issue. – President Obama

    This is a great start and an encouraging sign that the federal government doesn’t intend to ramp up its focus on individual users. Though considering it is extremely rare for the federal government to handle possession cases (only a few percent of annual arrests are conducted by the federal government), and that this is the same stance he took on medical cannabis before raiding more dispensaries than his predecessor, his administration’s broader policy will be the one to watch and according to his Attorney General Holder that pronouncement may come soon. Speaking yesterday in Boston, Attorney General Holder stated that:

    “There is a tension between federal law and these state laws. I would expect the policy pronouncement that we’re going to make will be done relatively soon.” – Attorney General Eric Holder

    UPDATE: Politico has now posted President Obama’s interview for viewing. Check it out below.

    126 Responses to “President Obama Breaks His Silence on Marijuana Legalization: We’ve Got Bigger Fish to Fry Than Cannabis Users”

    1. […] federal government doesn’t intend to ramp up its focus on individual users,” Altieri wrote on the organization’s website. “Though considering it is extremely rare for the federal government to handle possession […]

    2. […] Feds crack down less (sort of) – In December 2012, Obama broke his silence on marijuana legalization during an interview with […]

    3. WitchoftheWilds says:

      I adore what Zuke said, and echo his statement. The president really doesn’t have as much power as people like to believe he does, and it’s really not as simple as stating he’s for it and then magically fixes the laws.

      I’m glad he has a second term, as he can now be a little more open about his beliefs without fear about his position in politics degenerating. Even now, honestly, it’s hard for him to come out about his personal view on cannabis (whether or not he is over his high school days or not, and whether he really is for or against it) seeing as how he will still have jobs to do after being President, and most likely political-positions still.

      It’s like how he came out about supporting LBGT. In the beginning, he denied supporting them. But as he became more confident in his position, he’s been able to come out and say how he supports gay and lesbian relationships. Even then, the backlash he’s gotten from /that/ is outstandingly upsetting (I have a cousin who now absolutely despises Obama just from that, which is sad seeing as how he doesn’t know my actual sexuality).

      The War on Drugs is an even harder subject to crack, seeing as how we’re only just starting to get the turn-around with states legalizing, and even then the country is on egg-shells seeing if it will work (which I’m absolutely confident it will unless the federals come in), or if it will go up in flames — flames worse than people’s joints.

      If Obama were president, say, 5 to 10 years from now (virtually impossible however), maybe then he could confidently tell the US his opinion on the subject of cannabis without the unfortunate half of the country bursting into outrage and his job for the present and future being threatened. Once more people who are ignorant start to see how, oh hey, cannabis isn’t so bad, and maybe when schools don’t go around teaching that it’s a gateway drug that’s addictive (and not specify how it’s mentally technically, but not physically). The fact he even made this statement makes me very pleased.

    4. Chris says:

      Then fix the laws!

    5. D says:

      i think the president secretly wants to legalize marijuana but is afraid of being targeted by pharmaceutical companies…

    6. jim says:

      What big fish is he trying to fry? Just because he’s focused on the big piece of fish doesn’t mean the little ones are off the radar to get fried. So some girl in college told him he was being an ass; so instead of saying it was his fault he was being an ass; he blamed cannabis, and quit.

      Sir, you know what a scapegoat is and instead of saying your choices were yours, you blamed cannabis for those choices…maybe the talk that girl gave you made you grow a little, and that’s the change that was really needed… someone to pull you to the side and say; man what are you doing?

      Well, now there are millions of Americans; trying to do that with you on the issue of medical cannabis, and you aren’t having it…so did you really change that day back in college? We all make choices and as responsible people we have to own our choices. We can’t blame anyone or anything on what we choose to do…when someone drives drunk, the alcohol isn’t jailed the person is; for their poor choice.

      I know you are a rational and thoughtful man; and the above will make sense to you. Yes it is a touchy issue; but the majority of your political party want this legislation…they have done you a solid twice and put you into office…mainly on this issue alone…isn’t it about time you repay that solid?

      A recommendation from you would certainly; help regardless of the powers your branch holds…Bush jumped into war without Congressional consent, so you are not completely powerless to guide the countries course on this issue.


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