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

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 thoughts

  1. Obama’s comments actually make me hopeful. I can understand why others are skeptical, particularly in light of this admin’s aggressiveness against MMJ these past few years. However, I also understand that some of the posters here will use any excuse to attack the Pres, for political reasons.

    My nephew, who’s lived in CA the past decade, and is an MJ partaker himself, has told me that some of the MMJ clinics in CA were pushing–testing–the limits. He wasn’t surprised at Obama’s reaction. I was surprised to hear his comment, given the fact that, as I’ve said, he’s a smoker himself. But it is perhaps revealing. I don’t know, I’m just going by his comments.

    It does seem that both WA and CO are doing their damndest to make sure they proceed within the bounds of the new MJ laws in order not to trigger a reaction from the Feds.

    Anyway, I’m going to hold off judgment for the time being; I’m not going to scream “The sky is falling!” until I actually see it fall. For now, I’m very happy at the Pres’ comments.

  2. They’ll probably keep going the same direction anyways, until it becomes a bigger problem for the feds. In other words, they won’t deal with a change, until they have to.

  3. Great! Now get House bill 6606 scheduled, and have a Senate equivalent ready in as a backup to address enough of the opposition’s issues to get the damn thing back into the other chamber and get it made into law.

    As older folks die, the younger more supportive ones are left, so more of the prohibitionists in office are likely to find themselves not representing the majority of their districts, and will get voted out of office. It’s possible for conservative Republicans to vote for it on the grounds of saving/getting money, oops it was the fiscal cliff bill and I wasn’t going to quibble about this rider, or this bill that helped make fiscal cliff agreement a bit easier. Get the brain trust together and plan it out.

    Kudos so far. So far so good.

    Remember, nothing spells failure like 2 U.S. states legalizing.

    It’s more than just an Internet phenomenon.

  4. So, an Chief Executive he feels completely comfortable with killing thousands of 3rd world peoples with drones, curtailing civil rights here at home with NDAA, the Patriot Act, TSA strip searches etc., but ask him ot protect the civil liberties of American citizens participating in a “victimless crime” and harming no one in choosing for themselves what to put in their own bodies and all of a sudden he pretends like he doesn’t have the authority to act…those of you who’ve fallen for this guy’s act are clueless…he’s the problem, not a part of the solution

  5. This is better than him saying: Yeah, we’re going to continue the insane war on US citizens in WA & CO…

    We’re winning. Keep up fight. Think positive.

    Keep smokin’ grass!!! Thank God it’s legal in 2 states, now.

  6. yea obama said the same thing about med marijuana, “we wont go after patients” but they went after the dispensaries and growers. so now “we wont go after consumers” and they will go after the growers and store owners that are following state law.

  7. Can’t the pres just reschedule cannibus to mot be a CDS..make it like Tylenol? Avoid spending so much money and time to pass what more than half the nation wants anyway?

  8. Cork actually, weed, bud, trees, are good names to use and pretty actually too. A lame word to use? “Dope”! Marijuana is not Dope, unless you’re talking with a Prohibitionist.

    Dope is heroin.

  9. This issue now has to be a top priority, in light of yet another traggic event that took place in a Connecticut elementary school this morning, where 20 children and 6 teachers were murdered in cold blood. These horrible events are becoming all too common, and we need the resources, both financially and through freed up law enforcement for violent crimes such as these, and any crime that really hurts another person for that matter. Revenue and more officers freed up from the legalization of marijuana, could allow us to protect schools by either updating security at all schools or just by hiring or, using an officer that would otherwise be arresting someone who is partaking in the production or consumption of this wonderful plant, and place one or two of them at schools to protect our children. Just another reason why prohibition needs to end, and how this pointless war on drugs continues only for the reason that federal law enforcement agencies don’t want to lose their jobs and funding. This needs to be the top priority for this president, save our children and save our money! Cannabis seems to be the answer to a myriad of issues facing politicians these days. Why they can’t collectively see this is a mystery to me. Legalize!

  10. He has the authority to reschedual it under Executive Orders. Will he? No.

    That was a big sales pitch back in ’08 was that he would fight for legalization. Be it medical or recreational, I cannot recall. That was a big part of his sucess though. New Gen voters that had hope and confided in him, just to be let down.

  11. What will another state have to do at this point to legalize? Can another state join the band wagon now or do they have to wait until the next election?

  12. If the feds follow they’re usual protocol they will not enforce possession laws nor will they prosecute 6 plant grows so CO personnel grows should be safe from federal prosecution however any attempt at large commercial grows or sales outlets could be targeted as they have some disp in WA,OR,CA and other mmj states.

    As far as I know every dispensary the feds have busted were not following state laws or if they were did not take a jury trial but I am sure some were within state law but didn’t want to risk worse punishment by not taking the plea bargain. And some may have trials pending,,have not heard anything about them.

    To my knowledge the feds have not prosecuted any patients that were growing just their own medicine so I would venture to say they won’t be bothering licensed personal grows in CO either for 6 plants.

    Any state planning on legalization should allow licensed personal grows,,the license fees may be all the revenue a state makes if the feds bust the commercial grows.

  13. Hempster,I fully expect several state legislatures to attempt legalization bills in the they’re next session,,there is blood in the water(revenue available)and politicians are just like sharks,,the feeding frenzy and greed will kick in,especially if legislators thing the states citizens could possibly pass an initiative that doesn’t give them enough control ,,,they just float that way,like turds in a sewer.

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

    hmm… what he thinks at this point is that we have seen the voters speak …this statement is a way to get out of giving a real answer. does he need to state such an obvious thing? what kind of answer is that???!!!

  15. I believe people, law enforcement officials and politicians are waking up to the fact that the laws on Marijuana are silly. Now that REAL issues have surfaced in this country it makes light of how silly the “war” on drugs has become. Over budgeting, police state tactics aren’t working and they never will. People are more educated these days about the FACTS of marijuana not the rumors and bold face lies that have been spread by the NAZI regime drug enforcement policies of the last couple of decades.

  16. The usual line about waiting for Congress to act is total b.s. Pursuant to the Controlled Substances Act, the DEA (ergo the President) has the authority to determine what is in each schedule. With the stroke of a pen he could order cannabis entirely de-scheduled, just like beer. And beware of the “re-scheduling” trap. If that happens, Big Pharma will control it. Should have elected Paul, Johnson or Stein, but people never take my advice.

  17. Maybe if it is possible for states to legalize marijuana, and if enough states do so it could help convince the federal law to be changed. N the mean time, until federal law is changed I don’t think it wise for user’s to let their guard down. I think this bill (also not fond of 6606) if anything will show if the people in office are representing the majority of their districts or not. On the opposite end of the discussion WA and Co could also b testing the waters, showing whether something like this can be handled. Big believer feds will b keeping track of crime rates and anything else the can try and relate to marijuana use.

  18. I was looking over that old, cracking document that our gov’t holds as gospel truth. Well, I found out that it actually has a system built right into it for legal pot. Check this out…

    Article 28: CONTROL OF CANNABIS
    1. If a Party permits the cultivation of the cannabis plant for the production of cannabis or cannabis resin, it shall apply thereto the system of controls as provided in article 23 respecting the control of the opium poppy.

    Keep reading…it gets even better…

    2. This Convention shall NOT apply to the cultivation of the cannabis plant exclusively for industrial purposes (fibre and seed) or horticultural purposes.

    To me, this sais that if it’s legal for industrial use, it’s legal to smoke it. But wait, there’s more…

    3. The Parties shall adopt such measures as may be necessary to prevent the misuse of, and illicit traffic in, the leaves of the cannabis plant.

    Sounds just like what CO and WA did. So far, so good. Now, since their precious treaty says to refer to article 23, let’s check out what it has to say, shall we? (Just replace “opiyum poppy” with “Cannabis” and there ya go)

    Article 23: NATIONAL OPIUM AGENCIES
    1. A Party that permits the cultivation of the opium poppy (CANNABIS) for the production of opium (CANNABIS)shall establish, if it has not already done so, and maintain, one or more government agencies hereafter in this article referred to as the Agency) to carry out the functions required under this article.

    If you read both ballot initiatives, I do believe that the Alcohol Control Boards in their respective states fill this requirement.

    2. Each such Party shall apply the following provisions to the cultivation of the opium poppy (CANNABIS) for the production of opium and to opium (CANNABIS):
    a) The Agency (ALCOHOL BOARDS) shall designate the areas in which, and the plots of land on which,cultivation of the opium poppy for the purpose of producing opium shall be permitted.

    This takes me back to some bills I’ve read in which the designated area was a 5X5 space.

    b) Only cultivators licensed by the Agency (LIQUOR BOARDS)shall be authorized to engage in such cultivation.

    Yep. They got that covered, as well.

    c) Each licence shall specify the extent of the land on which the cultivation is permitted.

    6 plants, kept indoors under lock and key. So c above…check.

    d) All cultivators of the opium poppy (CANNABIS)shall be required to deliver their total crops of opium (CANNABIS) to the Agency (LIQUOR BOARDS). The Agency (LIQUOR BOARDS)shall purchase and take physical possession of such crops as soon as possible, but not later than four months after the end of the harvest.

    This is the tricky part, but doable. IMO, though, the liquor boards can stay the hell away from my smoke.

    e) The Agency (LIQUOR BOARDS) shall, in respect of opium (CANNABIS), have the exclusive right of importing, exporting, wholesale trading and maintaining stocks other than those held by manufacturers of opium alkaloids (CANNABIS RESINS), medicinal opium (MMJ)or opium preparations (EDIBLES AND HASH). Parties need NOT extend this exclusive right to medicinal opium and opium preparations.

    I take from this that…if anyone in the convention legalizes for medical purposes, they are also permitted, BY THEIR HOLY-GOSPEL PAPERWORK, that it is permissable to have a recreational market.

    3. The governmental functions referred to in paragraph 2 shall be discharged by a single government agency if the constitution of the Party concerned permits it.

    Hold on…what did that pesky A stand for in A-64? Oh, that’s right…AMENDMENT.

    As General William Grey on “Independance Day” proclaimed, “Get on the wire to every squadron around the world. Tell them how to bring those sons of bitches down!”

    Also another great quote from the General (for the prohibs of course), “…your primary target has shifted course and I think our Secret’s out! They are heading straight for us!”

  19. @Oracle. legalization in 2 states = failure? I think its the non-legalization in the 48 states that is failing us. I am sick and tired of watching my peers all around me have their lives completely screwed over because Ronald Reagan said weed(A FUCKING PLANT) is bad? What gives a group of people the right to tell others what they can and can’t put in their bodies. Better than that, what gives them the right to kick in your door and point a gun at you for doing so. Heres an idea: Sign a bill to force all police confiscated “drug money” to be donated to local charities lets change the world. Fat pigs think that money is theirs because they found it… it was “their bust”? Well who earned that money in the first place? sure as hell not the American government. Stop ruining good people’s lives!!!!

  20. Obama did APPROVE anything and the election had nothing to do with this decision.
    OBAMA has been against this issue (Cannabis Legalization)
    We will learn that there is still a Federal Law. States that have legalized laws will loose Federal funding. This will cause a back lash.
    I agree with changing the current laws on/about Cannabis, but I beleive that decriminalization would be a proper approach and attitude.

  21. We’ve got bigger fish to fry? Really Obama, I guess the president’s appetite for California fish is getting old.

  22. Encouraging and about as positive as Obama can get. He obviously has commitments to groups that oppose any kind of legalisation. Looks like all he can do is stand back and let it happen – which will suffice.

    Just like most presidents he has done so many deals to get where he is ( especially with a tight election just gone) that he can do hardly anything without upsetting some one. Also it is hard to do an about face on his attitudes now when he was so against it all these years and not look stupid.

    One word of caution he focused on users not licensed businesses. If no go ahead is forthcoming there will be no legal outlets or producers of marijuana in either of these states.

  23. President Obama and AG Holder have set the legalization framework,,the feds cannot/will not enforce possession laws,,keep “in public” possession limits small enough to discourage black market activity.personal grows limited for the same reason and below federal radar,,way below,,feds don’t target under 100 plants according to all the evidence I have found on it,,if anyone has different data please post.

    I don’t think the government is going to end prohibition of hemp,,and this is their plan to keep that ban in place,,no large outdoor production of marijuana keeps hemp banned,,,that is how I see it Vern. This is still only a delaying tactic that Mary Jane and knowledge will over turn this eventually,,,we still have a long ways to go but they just lost this game

  24. Why is this natural plant considered a schedule I Narcotic with no medicinal value?
    Why have people been using this for thousands of years?
    What else is there to converse about?

  25. Obama may be a chicken shit as far as being the hero and legalizing Pot but I’d rather have that than shit romney, who’d ruin the country worse than bush. I voted Obama twice. I’m voting Hillary twice if she runs. The only way I wouldn’t is if a person with a good chance at winning wants to legalize pot or shrooms lsd peyote too. But other than that I’m voting to keep republicants OUT of power/office. They’re like America’s cancer.

  26. I think he is waiting till after they get past the fiscal cliff issues before he can really act the legalization issue because it is the major problem that the country is facing .

  27. Claygooding, I would suggest you do some more research into federal actions against dispensaries in CA and MT. CO has less direct raiding, but has moved against dispensaries based on location. Harborside is a model dispensary in CA, and the target of continued federal action. Resources are used against state compliant patients, caregivers and dispensaries. Obama can resolve the situation by simply removing cannabis from Schedule 1, at the very least, and reasonably from the entire list of Controlled Substances. Controlling any of them hasn’t worked real well so far. Portugal provides an excellent example of how to deal with a social issue thru non-criminal avenues.

  28. while i may not agree with many of his policies, president Obama is a freaking political genius. you really can’t deny that the man gets done what he meant to get done.

    he may not appear to overtly support legalization, but doing so would probably mean the end of his political career. and while Obama hasn’t made too many official comments on the issue, one thing is clear: marijuana is legal in two states!

    an issue like legalization cannot be effectively handled by the president overtly. it is simply too much of an emotional issue for many people and would result in the immediate loss of too much political capital. however, i feel that on this and other emotional issues, obama is facilitating the correct moves behind the scenes.

    obviously i have no proof or statements to support my case, other than this is what i’d like to believe and this is how i interpret the choom master’s moves.

    and he freaking hired Kumar from Harold and Kumar. Kumar works at the white house! they probably box out the oval office. they should make another freakin movie.

  29. I personally believe that, it is the duty of every person alive who sees this crap for what it is, to read and study their documents. For example, I just spent about 15 minutes on the DEA website looking over the CSA. This is what I found.

    Section 844a
    Civil Penalty for Possession of Small Amounts of Certain Controlled Substances
    (f) Compromise – The Attorney General may compromise, modify, or remit, with or without conditions, any civil penalty imposed under this section.

    Section 801a
    Congressional Findings and Declarations: Psychotropic Substances. The Congress makes the following findings and declarations:

    (2)… The Convention is not self-executing, and the obligations of the United States thereunder may only be performed pursuant to appropriate legislation. It is the intent of the Congress that the amendments made by this Act, together with existing law, will enable the United States to meet all of its obligations under the Convention and that no further legislation will be necessary for that purpose.

    Section 877
    Judicial review
    All final determinations, findings, and conclusions of the Attorney General under this subchapter shall be final and conclusive decisions of the matters involved, except that any person aggrieved by a final decision of the Attorney General may obtain review of the decision in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia or for the circuit in which his principal place of business is located upon petition filed with the court and delivered to the Attorney General within thirty days after notice of the decision. Findings of fact by the Attorney General, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive.

    Any attornies or promising law students out there? I say we use their own gospel against them. You also need to read the Single Convention of 1961, which was updated in the 70’s. Check out Article 28 in particular, which will lead you to Article 23.

    All that may not be usable, but some kind of a loophole must exist with our state policies changing now. Hey, I’m no lawyer; just one of those dumb, poor Southerners that a lot in the MJ lobby put down due to the Bible belt, desperately wishing to do his part for our Republic.

    Not all of us can even afford the 10 bucks a month, nor can all of us get out there with a petition in hand. However, what we CAN do is try and spread the truth, write Congress, and share what little info is out there that can help.

    Regardless, please use what you can. In the mean-time, I will be looking for more.

  30. @Heisenberg: Yeah, nothing spells the failure of the war on cannabis like to U.S. states legalizing it. Remember, nothing spells failure like 2 U.S. states legalizing. Make more sense to you now. Hey,Heisenberg, I like a wide variety: gold like Columbian and Mexican Gold, Panama Red, different northern purple strains, black Afghan hash, Nepalese Temple Balls, Ice, Ice Hash. Oh, what a selection like none before I’m looking forward to in the near future. It’s as CM wrote, law enforcement has limited resources and these shootings are the kind of thing they need to focus on.

  31. it is good to hear and see that the president also respect the wishes of the people and will continue to look to congress to change the federal prohibition law… in the mean time we can all breath easier that freedoms cause is finally recognised… hallelujah…

  32. @ Sal
    Ronald Reagan was a great president. Because of the economy he kept, my mother never had to work outside the home, my dad worked just one job, and I never lived in anything other than a house until I joined the Army. In addition to that, we never went hungry, always had brand new school clothes each year, and the family was covered on medical insurance.
    Reagan pushed for a sense of pride, to go out and work for a living, rather than depending on the gov’t for a check and food stamps, which is what our current Administration has been doing the past 4 years.
    I hated his attitude towards the drug war, and there were a lot of things I despised about the man. But he was probably the last actual good president we’ve had. To say fuck Reagan is like saying “to hell with a job and pride of taking care of myself.”
    I bet you voted for the socialist pig we’ve got in the Oval Office both times, didn’t you?

  33. Also, here are just a few of Reagan’s quotes, written from his own personal beliefs.

    “No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth!”

    “We should measure welfare’s success by how many people leave welfare, not by how many are added.”

    “Man is not free unless government is limited.”

    “Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves. ”

    Oh, yeah. Fuck all that. Only a piece of shit against America would speak such nonsense.

    C’mon, really? If he were elected in 2014, with all of the states regulating and changing drug policies, we wouldn’t be up against prohibition long. Know why? Because he believes in the People and their right to self-governance. Yes he was hard on pot smokers…he was following the law that a grand majority of the citizenry wanted to be supported. Put him in office today and he would still side with the People. I grew up in the 80’s and know what kind of president he was. We would all be so lucky as to have him back in DC’s top position today.

  34. The war on drugs is not a war by definition and standerds for it to be a war it has to have a way to end wars can only end in 3 ways.

    1. Absents of resources on either side(including money or manpower). This can not happen unless the goverment faces almost or complete collapse.

    2. A treaty on witch both partys agrre on. Not possible unless weed is legalized. We are talking about millons of individuals not 1 person or gov.body so everyone wont accept it.

    3. Complete destruction of enemy (complete surrender aka. No more people wanting to smoke weed. Or complete destruction of weed.)

    1 and 2 is out because the goverment wont stop and neither will people that want complete legalization. 3 is out because we will not stop pushing for legilization and the goverment can not destroy weed because of the endangerd wildlife act they can almost completly get rid of in america but then the us fish and wild life has to step in and protect the species and all sub-species. After that more pot seeds come in from out of country and the population goes up then it starts over.

    This is not a war it is suppresion of rights and the largest drain on the economy that can not be fixed with out removing one side of the problem completly.

  35. I consider President Obama’s recent remarks to be positive and we should all be grateful that he is our leader. I’m very sure we would all like for him to go bit further on our behalf but still, it is much better than stating that he would fight us on this; like Romney and the Repugnicans (Repugnant Republicans; you probably know which ones I’m referring to…) would have. I believe he would (perhaps secretly) like to free the weed but is restricted by others holding some kind of leverage over him; people like Joe Biden and John Boehner perhaps…

    I know he hasn’t been kind to Medical Marijuana and I don’t understand why. It angers me as much as anyone else out there and I can only guess there are things going on behind the scenes that we’re not aware of and he (Obama) has a difficult balancing act to perform because of the opposition of the war pigs. Those war pigs are going down and history won’t be on their side! We are winning and mustn’t let up until cannabis (aka marijuana) is legal in all 50 states 🙂 Noone should have to spend even one day in jail because of making marijuana their choice of medicine or recreational substance. My favorite President, Jimmy Carter, a true hero in my opinion, is right on with his recent statements. It is truly sad that the war pigs won this battle while he had the watch but I truly appreciate and admire him.

    I send out my love to all my fellow cannabis lovers! I do so look forward to the day when I can go into a retail outlet and choose from a variety of high quality strains, legally consume it, and engage in some of my favorite activities without paranoia.

    I think it would be nice if NORML could add a web page where cannabis lovers all over this country and the world could post the things they like to experience while under the influence of the herb.

    When I’m under the influence these are some of the things I really like: taking long walks with my dog, watching movies, playing chess, exercise (no kidding! I love to exercise), practice using nunchaku and juggling, playing chess (I know I already mentioned that but it is truly one of my favorite things). Further, I don’t much like housework but if I have a little buzz going on, it can actually be enjoyable 🙂

    Peace Everyone!

  36. I can honestly tell you that nobody seems to be hassling anyone smoking weed in Southern California . Being in the tourist industry and driving in the county showing tourists around I usually see someone lighting up or smoking a joint while walking down the Street and it’s pretty much the normal here . Nobody even cares but yesterday I picked up an older couple from, North Carolina and I could not believe in the intolerance they have toward marijuana like it was the worse horrific and dangerous substance in the World . They truly wanted pot smokers dead . Can’t believe this attitude does still exists in America . It’s going to be a long time before the South ever changes .

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