People who use marijuana in Colorado and Washington state, which have legalized the recreational use of the drug, should not be a top priority for federal law enforcement officials, President Obama told ABC News’ Barbara Walters.”We’ve got bigger fish to fry,” he said.
Marijuana continues to be illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act. It is considered a Schedule I drug, whose cultivation, distribution, possession and use are criminal acts.
President Obama said he does not currently support widespread legalization of the drug. He acknowledged public opinion on the issue is changing, and there are limited government resources to punish people who use marijuana.
“This is a tough problem, because Congress has not yet changed the law,” he said. “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?”
He said he has asked Attorney General Eric Holder and the Justice Department to look into legal issues involved in the conflicting federal and state laws on drugs.
Holder told ABC News, “There are a number of issues that have to be considered, among them the impact that drug usage has on young people, [and] we have treaty obligations with nations outside the United States.”