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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Obama Pressed on Medical Marijuana, but Won't Support it Just Yet

Posted By on Thu, Aug 22, 2013 at 8:45 AM

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  • Nah

It's been a while, but President Barack Obama has gone on record condoning medical marijuana use. As candidate and as president, he's said, sick people should be able to access the drug.

They just need to do keep on doing so illegally, the White House said on Wednesday.

Faced with his second marijuana question in as many days, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday that a change in federal law -- which could make these sick people no longer criminals -- is not something the president supports "at this point."

He may mean "before the midterms," but for some liberals, enough is enough.

Earnest on Tuesday heard a question about the reversal of Sanjay Gupta, the CNN doctor who was once a frontrunner to become Obama's surgeon general. While he was in the running to work in Washington, Gupta went public with his skepticism that marijuana is a viable drug.

This month, Gupta spent a week recently on an apology tour, recanting his statements that marijuana wasn't medically efficacious and promoting a Sunday night CNN special all about how the drug is in fact helpful.

To that, Earnest laughed off the question before he dodged it, telling the reporter that he hadn't seen Gupta's remarks and couldn't comment. Guess he hadn't been on the Internet that week.

Wednesday was a day even the most strident cannabis supporter could have been forgiven for forgetting about weed -- with chemical weapons in Syria and Bradley Manning's 35-year sentence percolating-- but the White House press corp was on it.

The transcript from Wednesday's briefing was not up by Wednesday evening, but here's what was asked, as per the Washington Post and the Washington bureau of McClatchy.

While individual marijuana users shouldn't fear the feds, as Obama has said before, there is no desire on the White House's part to change federal policy even on state-approved medical marijuana, Earnest said.

"The priority in terms of the dedication of law enforcement resources should be targeted toward our drug kingpins, drug traffickers and others who perpetrate violence in the conduct of the drug trade," Earnest said, via the Post. "But at the same time, the president does not, you know, at this point advocate a change in the law."

Of course, even this is a dodge, as advocates point out. Plenty federal resources have been spent getting in the way of state law, and getting in the way of state law-abiding cannabis users accessing the medicine on which they pay state sales tax.

"The real question is if the president wants to allow the voter-approved systems for regulated marijuana sales to be implemented," said Tom Angell, spokesman for legalization advocacy group Marijuana Majority, "Or if he wants to intervene and force those users to keep buying marijuana on the black market from violent drug cartels and gangs."

And that is a question the president can't answer... at this point. But maybe after the 2014 midterms? Which would make it nigh on seven years since candidate Obama gave weed users such high hopes.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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