National News

Aug 21, 2013 5:02 PM by Kevin Liptak - CNN

No change in marijuana laws coming, White House says

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama isn't looking to change current federal laws dictating the classification of marijuana, his spokesman explained Wednesday.

Josh Earnest, the deputy press secretary, 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.

Responding to a question from CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellin, Earnest described the Obama administration's position on marijuana as mainly focused on prosecuting 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."

A day earlier, Earnest said he couldn't say whether or not the president's personal views on medical marijuana had changed as he had not seen a column and documentary written by CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, which detailed Gupta's own shift on the issue.

Obama considered naming Gupta as surgeon general in 2009, but the neurosurgeon later said he withdrew his name so he could maintain his surgical career and continue spending time with his family.

Gupta's online essay on marijuana, published August 9, was titled "Why I changed my mind on weed." In it, he described changing his own stance on medical marijuana after researching the topic for his CNN documentary "Weed."

He also apologized for what he said was his misguided previous stance.

"I apologize because I didn't look hard enough, until now," Gupta wrote. "I didn't look far enough. I didn't review papers from smaller labs in other countries doing some remarkable research, and I was too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis."

Obama last weighed in on the use of marijuana after two states - Washington and Colorado - legalized the recreational use of the drug.

"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?"

Supporters of medical marijuana have largely been disappointed in the Obama administration's record on the issue. While many were hopeful Obama would discontinue Bush-era crackdowns on dispensaries in states allowing the medical use of cannabis, those raids have ramped up since 2011. Users of medical marijuana, however, have mostly been left alone by the federal government.

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