Pubdate: Wed, 05 Feb 2014
Source: Delaware County Daily Times (PA)
Copyright: 2014 The Daily Times


WASHINGTON (AP) - Figuring out where the Obama administration stands
on marijuana is starting to get as confusing as remembering which one
is Cheech and which one is Chong.

The White House-run Office of National Drug Control Policy considers
marijuana a dangerous and harmful drug. And the Drug Enforcement
Administration labels it a top-tier illegal drug under federal law.

But President Barack Obama, an acknowledged pot smoker in his younger
days, recently told The New Yorker magazine that he doesn't see
marijuana as any more dangerous than alcohol and said it was
"important" that the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and
Washington state go forward.

So what is the government's position? Members of Congress pressed
Michael Botticelli, deputy director of the drug-control agency, on
that question Tuesday during a House hearing.

"The administration continues to oppose attempts (to) legalize
marijuana and other drugs," Botticelli told a House Oversight

The panel's chairman, Rep. John Mica, RFla., described the
administration's position on marijuana as "schizophrenic" with the
drug control policy office and the DEA clearly being against
legalization while the president has been far more permissive in his

Obama has yet to give a full-throated endorsement to the two states'
legalization. He told The New Yorker "it's important for it to go
forward because it's important for society not to have a situation in
which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the
law and only a select few get punished." He also has been quick to say
that he doesn't think smoking marijuana is a good idea.

James Capra, chief of operations for the DEA, told a Senate panel last
month that "going down the path to legalization in this country is
reckless and irresponsible."

The Justice Department issued a policy memo last year that essentially
pledges to steer clear of state-legal marijuana businesses as long as
they follow a series of strict guidelines. While the memo doesn't give
carte blanche to would-be marijuana entrepreneurs, it was received as
an encouraging development by the growing legal pot market.

Attorney General Eric Holder also has pledged to issue new guidance to
federally regulated banks on how to deal with profits from these
businesses. Current law makes it illegal for such banks to handle cash
related to pot or other illegal drug businesses.

Capra stopped short of calling out the administration for its easing
of marijuana enforcement but wasn't subtle in his comments to the
Senate Caucus on International Drug Control.  
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D