Film and TV

Video: Barack Obama says targeting recreational marijuana users not a priority, but....

In teasing her interview tonight with President Barack Obama on 20/20 (see a preview below), Barbara Walters naturally starts with...pot. But while the headline statement involves Obama's assurance that the federal government has larger priorities than to go after recreational marijuana users in Colorado and Washington state, he doesn't give many other hints about federal action -- other than to say he's not ready to advocate for widespread legalization.

Regarding legalization, Obama says he's against it "at this point." But neither does it make sense to him to make expend lots of resources going after a Coloradan with an ounce of weed, saying, "We've got bigger fish to fry."

Obama adds that finding a balance between the new measures in Colorado and Washington and current federal policy is "a tough problem, because Congress has not yet changed the law. 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?"

None of these observations is new, and Obama reportedly gives no hints about which way Attorney General Eric Holder and the Justice Department are leaning when it comes to what's characterized as an ongoing review.

"There are a number of issues that have to be considered, among them the impact that drug usage has on young people, [and] we have treaty obligations with nations outside the United States," he says.

When asked about his own marijuana usage during his youth, he says, "There are a bunch of things I did that I regret when I was a kid. My attitude is, substance abuse generally is not good for our kids, not good for our society.... I want to discourage drug use," including by his own daughters.

That may not sound like much of an endorsement, but Amendment 64 proponent and Marijuana Policy Project Mason Tvert (featured earlier today in a post about a petition aimed at Vice President Joe Biden) sees some positives in the quotes released thus far. Look below to see a preview of the interview, followed by Tvert's release.

Mason Tvert release:

Obama Says Going After Marijuana Users Will Not Be a Priority in States That Vote to Make It Legal Amendment 64 proponents welcome the president's call for a "conversation" about reconciling state and federal marijuana laws

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In an interview released today, President Obama said that going after marijuana consumers will not be a priority of the federal government in states such as Colorado and Washington, where voters approved ballot measures this November making marijuana legal for adults. He also highlighted the need for a conversation about how to reconcile state and federal marijuana laws.

Marijuana officially became legal in Colorado on Monday after Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the voter-approved initiative into law. The measure adopted by voters in Washington went into effect last week. The initiatives also direct the legislatures of both states to create regulations in order to establish a legal market for businesses to cultivate and sell marijuana to adults.

Statement from Mason Tvert, an official proponent of Amendment 64 who served as co-director of the campaign in support of the measure:

"President Obama acknowledged that arresting marijuana users should not be a priority of the federal government. The question that remains is whether these consumers should purchase marijuana in state-regulated, taxpaying businesses, or from cartels and gangs in the underground market.

"Colorado voters made it quite clear that they prefer marijuana be sold in a regulated market. Our state and federal government must now determine how to work together to advance such a state-based system without undermining legitimate federal interests. We are glad to hear President Obama is ready for that conversation and we look forward to having it."

More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana petition asks Joe Biden not to push for crackdown on Colorado, Washington."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts