Pubdate: Thu, 22 Aug 2013
Source: Virgin Islands Daily News, The (VI)
Copyright: 2013 McClatchy
Author: Lesley Clark, McClatchy Washington Bureau


WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama doesn't support changing federal 
laws to legalize marijuana, though a prominent physician he once was 
said to want as his surgeon general says the drug has "very 
legitimate medical applications."

White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday that 
although Obama thinks that "targeting individual marijuana users . is 
not the best allocation for federal law enforcement resources," he 
doesn't "at this point advocate a change in the law."

Under federal law, all pot sales are illegal, with marijuana 
classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, in the same category 
as heroin and LSD. The administration's stance on legalization is 
being viewed closely by advocacy groups and in the states 
ofWashington and Colorado, each of which voted last November to 
legalize, regulate and tax marijuana. Pot advocates say it will be 
impossible for the states to tax and sell the drug next year if the 
U.S. government doesn't give them a pass on violating federal laws.

Earnest's remarks came as reporters asked him about a reversal by 
CNN's chief medical correspondent, Sanjay Gupta, who once was 
considered a candidate for surgeon general. Gupta wrote on CNN's 
website two weeks ago that he's "come to the realization that it is 
irresponsible not to provide the best care we can as a medical 
community, care that could involve marijuana."

Earnest said the administration's position "has been clear and 
consistent for some time now that while the prosecution of drug 
traffickers remains an important priority, the president and the 
administration believe that targeting individual marijuana users, 
especially those with serious illnesses and their caregivers, is not 
the best allocation for federal law enforcement resources."

He said Obama thinks that law enforcement should prioritize "drug 
kingpins, drug traffickers and others who perpetrate violence in the 
conduct of the drug trade."

Earnest said the president had last talked about the issue in an 
interview with Barbara Walters in December. At that time, Obama noted 
that the two states had legalized marijuana and that "it does not 
make sense from a prioritization point of view for us to focus on 
recreational drug users" in such states.

Earnest said he didn't know whether the president would be willing to 
take steps to make it easier to conduct research on marijuana's 
medical benefits, but he joked that discussing legalization during 
the daily White House news briefing was likely to gain plenty of attention.

"For some reason, I have the sneaking suspicion that this is going to 
draw me all kinds of traffic on Twitter," Earnest said, to laughter.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom