President Barack Obama clarified his position on medical marijuana in an interview with Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, to appear in the May 10 issue: "What I specifically said was that we were not going to prioritize prosecutions of persons who are using medical marijuana. I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana—and the reason is, because it's against federal law. I can't nullify congressional law."
Obama continued: "I can't ask the Justice Department to say, 'Ignore completely a federal law that's on the books.' What I can say is, 'Use your prosecutorial discretion and properly prioritize your resources to go after things that are really doing folks damage.' As a consequence, there haven't been prosecutions of users of marijuana for medical purposes."
Critics recall that on the campaign trail in 2008, Obama told the Oregon Mail Tribune: "I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue." After Obama took office, the Justice Department announced a shift in policy, saying it would allocate prosecutorial resources away from states where medical marijuana is legal—only to toughen the policy again last year. (Politico, April 25)
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