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

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive 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. BetZ says:

      Same thing he said about the dispensaries, and his administration prosecuted more medical marijuana centers in compliance with their state laws than the BUSH admin did! Ugh seriously. I campaigned for Obama the first time around, this time I merely voted for him. I love the guy, I think he’s a real human being with a strong moral compass, blah blah blah….but this political posturing on marijuana is completely redonkulous to me. It’s not a dire issue, he should be laughing that it’s still classified as a Schedule 1 drug.
      Geez Obama, be a hero. Bring in those tax dollars. Remember when the medical marijuana industry bankrupted California? Yeah, me either.

    2. Gary says:

      a great sign of what?? Obama and his administration say a lot and have been proven to do the exact opposite in reality

    3. Mike says:

      I’m so glad I get a front row seat to marijuana prohibition unraveling. This is starting to get fun!

    4. Katherine says:

      Yeah, we’ve heard that before. What’s interesting is that he’s passing the buck to Congress, as if the executive branch cannot act before the legislature. As a constitutional law scholar, Obama knows that this model hasn’t been in effect since WWI. The Nixon administration initiated the current drug scheduling, and ignored congressional recommendations when classifying marijuana. But now Obama’s saying that it’s beyond his scope? Really?

    5. Joe says:

      Go POTUS! Now you’re on the right track. THIS IS A VICTORY, folks! What we’re looking for from the President are *signals* on how he’ll react to the change in law, and this was a clear sign. Let’s hope his position leads to more common sense discussion and action.

    6. Chris says:

      I notice no where in this article does it talk about rescheduling cannabis; which President Obama could do with a pen stroke; no congress or senate approval needed, so says the Attorney General of the United States.

    7. @melayela says:

      watch #breakingthetaboo


      imma a unemployed biracial college grad who would like to see legalized weed in usa

      hell i never thought i’d see a blaque mang in the whyte haus now keep it real Barak and let yur supporters know that gov’t can rehumanize the viscious powers of our adamic sin !!!

      phree the quenneh bosom plz

    8. Rah says:

      i want too see marijuana rescheduled on the controlled substances act….period….until i see this done im taking everythung Obama says with a grain of salt. I want legal regulation of production, processing, and sell of marijuana, with no obstruction from the feds or states in thier day to day operations. POINT BLANK PERIOD!!!

    9. Miles says:

      President Obama is absolutely correct when he states: “We’ve got bigger fish to fry”. There are at least several thousand things more dangerous that they should be focused on!!! Now, if only he will give the order to his administration to follow his lead the world will be a better place.

      Mr. Biden, are you listening? How about you Melinda Hag?

    10. Audrey says:

      yeah, they won’t go after the USERS, but they will go after the stores once regulations are set up.