President Barack Obama made clear Friday that policing marijuana usage was not a high priority for the federal government, giving some hope to supporters of the recent, successful legalization efforts in Colorado and Washington.
ABC’s Barbara Walters asked the president about his views on marijuana legalization during a recent interview that will air Friday night. Obama maintained that he did not support full legalization of marijuana, but suggested he would respect the will of the people in states that voted for legalization:
“At this point, Washington and Colorado you’ve seen the voters speak on this issue. As it is, the federal government has a lot to do when it comes to criminal prosecutions. It does not make sense from a prioritization point of view for us to focus on recreational drug users in a state that has already said under state law that’s legal.”
Still, a number of factors complicate the situation. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and enforcement falls to the executive branch and Attorney General Eric Holder. Holder was accused of presiding over a crackdown on marijuana usage in states that legalized it for medical purposes.
He has also acknowledged the U.S.’s obligation to obey UN treaties that call for marijuana to remain illegal. The UN’s International Narcotics Control Board has asked the federal government to ignore the vote by the people of Washington and Colorado, and instead vigorously enforce drug prohibition.
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