DENVER — “We’ve got bigger fish to fry.”
That’s what President Barack Obama said Thursday when asked for the first time if his administration will go after recreational marijuana users in Colorado or push to have Amendment 64 overturned.
With the looming fiscal cliff just one of the far-reaching issues fresh at hand, Obama told Barbara Walters that the legalization of marijuana in two states — Washington being the other — is simply “not a top priority” for his administration.
“It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that (marijuana) is legal,” Obama told Walters.
Obama’s comments come in spite of the fact that marijuana is currently illegal at the federal level.
Given that fact, many have speculated that the federal government will step in to squash Amendment 64, which will allows adults over the age of 21 to possess and smoke small amounts of marijuana. Comments from the Department of Justice hours after voters passed the measure did nothing to allay that speculation.
“The Department of Justice’s enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged,” wrote Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “In enacting the Controlled Substances Act, Congress determined that marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance. We are reviewing the ballot initiative and have no additional comment at this time.”
Though his comments are the first positive sign on the federal level for marijuana activists since Amendment 64 was passed, the President was far from absolute. He went on to acknowledge the fact that his say is hardly the final word on the issue, and that fully preventing federal interference with any marijuana legalization statue will be a challenging.
“This is a tough problem, because Congress has not yet changed the (federal) law,” Obama said. “I head up the executive branch; we’re supposed to be carrying out laws. And so what we’re going to need to have is a conversation about, How do you reconcile a federal law that still says marijuana is a federal offense and state laws that say that it’s legal?”