It's a small step, perhaps, but the nation's drug czar is reiterating President Obama's comments on having conversations between the federal government and states that have legalized marijuana like Washington has.
Gil Kerlikowske, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, was responding to petitions to the White House to legalize marijuana. The Obama White House has a place on its web site for people to file petitions, and, if they get at least 25,000 signatures, it promises a response.
There are three petitions regarding some form of legalization of marijuana, including two that would involve ways the federal government would not interfere with states that legalize the drug. (The third just calls for federal legalization). All have more than the 25,000 minimum.
In response, Kerlikowske says the nation in the middle of a serious conversation about marijuana and the Justice Department is "reviewing the legalization initiatives passed in Colorado and Washington."
He then inserts part of the transcript from an interview Obama gave Barbara Walters that bolsters that point, noting the federal government isn't going after individual users. For the complete response from Kerlikowske, go inside the blog.
Addressing the Legalization of Marijuana
By Gil Kerlikowske
Thank you for participating in We the People and speaking out on the legalization of marijuana. Coming out of the recent election, it is clear that we're in the midst of a serious national conversation about marijuana.
At President Obama's request, the Justice Department is reviewing the legalization initiatives passed in Colorado and Washington, given differences between state and federal law. In the meantime, please see a recent interview with Barbara Walters in which President Obama addressed the legalization of marijuana.
Do you think that marijuana should be legalized?
Well, I wouldn't go that far. But what I think is that, at this point, Washington and Colorado, you've seen the voters speak on this issue. And as it is, the federal government has a lot to do when it comes to criminal prosecutions. It does not make sense from a prioritization point of view for us to focus on recreational drug users in a state that has already said that under state law that's legal.
…this 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.
When you're talking about drug kingpins, folks involved with violence, people are who are peddling hard drugs to our kids in our neighborhoods that are devastated, there is no doubt that we need to go after those folks hard… it makes sense for us to look at how we can make sure that our kids are discouraged from using drugs and engaging in substance abuse generally. There is more work we can do on the public health side and the treatment side.
Gil Kerlikowske is Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy
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