President Obama clarified his position on medical marijuana in an interview with Rolling Stone, telling publisher Jann Wenner that he can’t “nullify congressional law.”
“What I specifically said was that we were not going to prioritize prosecutions of persons who are using medical marijuana. I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana – and the reason is, because it’s against federal law. I can’t nullify congressional law,” Obama said.
“I can’t ask the Justice Department to say, ‘Ignore completely a federal law that’s on the books.’ What I can say is, ‘Use your prosecutorial discretion and properly prioritize your resources to go after things that are really doing folks damage.’ As a consequence, there haven’t been prosecutions of users of marijuana for medical purposes,” Obama said.
Obama also said in a late night TV appearance Tuesday on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, that he didn’t expect Congress to change that law: “We’re not going to be legalizating weed … anytime soon.”
As I reported recently, some of Obama’s more liberal and libertarian supporters are disappointed by the stance his administration has taken on medical marijuana — and believe that both he and the Justice Department have backed away from their commitment to leaving medical marijuana dispensaries alone in states where it is legal.
The confusion stems from a 2008 interview where Obama told the Oregon Mail Tribune that “I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue.” Upon taking office, the Justice Department also announced a shift in policy where it would allocate prosecutorial resources away from states where marijuana is legal — but critics say the raids continue unabated.