President Barack Obama said Thursday in an interview with CNN that the federal government does not have the resources to prosecute casual users of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, two states where it has been legalized for sale.
“The Department of Justice, you know, under Eric Holder, has said that we are going to continue to enforce federal laws. But in those states, we recognize that … the federal government doesn’t have the resources to police whether somebody is smoking a joint on a corner,” he said. “And we are trying to provide them structures to make sure that, you know, big time drug traffickers, the spillover effect of the violence, potentially, of a drug trade [are not] creeping out of this experiment.”
Obama, who recently told the New Yorker’s David Remnick that marijuana was no more dangerous than alcohol, declined to say whether its designation as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act — the same category as heroin and ecstasy — should be changed. Obama said that rescheduling marijuana — taking it off the federal government’s list of controlled substances, or making restrictions on it less severe — was “a job for Congress.”
Lawmakers could in fact reschedule marijuana, but so could Obama, by recognizing the plant’s medical uses and removing it from the restrictive Category 1 scheduling. That could give states more breathing room to legalize medical or recreational marijuana.
“It’s very unfortunate that President Obama appears to want to pass the buck to Congress when it comes to marijuana laws,” said Tom Angell, co-founder of the reform group Marijuana Majority. “He should initiate the long overdue rescheduling of marijuana today.”