[Says Obama, replying to outcry over crackdowns on medical marijuana:] "The only tension that's come up—and this gets hyped up a lot—is a murky area where you have large-scale, commercial operations that may supply medical marijuana users, but in some cases may also be supplying recreational users. In that situation, we put the Justice Department in a very difficult place if we're telling them, 'This is supposed to be against the law, but we want you to turn the other way.'"
[Says Obama, replying to outcry over crackdowns on medical marijuana:] "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 [dispensaries]—and the reason is, because it's against federal law."
On a late-night television interview with Jimmy Fallon..., Obama laughed off a question about marijuana legalization. "We're not going to be legalizing weed -- or what -- anytime soon," the president said. Obama has conceded he used marijuana and cocaine while he was college-age and called their use "bad decisions."
The administration also repeats, to the chagrin of advocates who have for years sought to make marijuana legal, that “legalization of drugs will not be considered.” Obama’s drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, told ABC News that Obama is “firm” on not favoring the legalization of illicit drugs.
The Obama administration says that the “mass incarceration” of nonviolent drug users is an “outdated” policy. Instead, the White House says it is spending resources on preventing people from using drugs in the first place and helping users recover, because “drug addiction is a disease.”
“I don’t mind a debate on issues such as decriminalization,” Obama told Univisión’s Enrique Acevedo while in Colombia for the Summit of the Americas. "I personally don't agree that that's a solution to the problem, but I think that, given the pressures that a lot of governments are under here -- under resourced, overwhelmed by violence -- it’s completely understandable that they would look for new approaches and we want to cooperate with them."
What Kerlikowske said he wants is a “third way,” as he calls the White House’s new plan–a transformation of law enforcement’s role in U.S. drug policy, and a shift from viewing drug addiction as a moral crime to viewing it as a treatable disease. “I don’t want to see law enforcement characterized as anti prevention, anti treatment,” Kerlikowske [White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Director] said.
“On one side we have a very vocal, organized, well-funded advocates who insist that drug legalization is a ‘silver bullet’ for addressing our nation’s drug problem. Then we have the other side. On the other side of the debate are those who insist that a law-enforcement-only, ‘War on Drugs’ approach … is the way to create a drug free society,” Kerlikowske [White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Director] said. “The Obama administration strongly believes that neither of these approaches is humane, realistic, or — most importantly — grounded in science,” Kerlikowske said.
Nations in the Americas -- including the United States -- have "mutual responsibilities" to tackle the issue, Obama said. To that end, he announced an increase to more than $130 million of funds dedicating to bolstering security and going after narco-traffickers and "gangs" in the region.
"I think it is entirely legitimate to have a conversation about whether the laws in place are doing more harm than good in certain places," [Obama] said at the [Summit of the Americas]. "I personally, and my administration's position is, that legalization is not the answer."