Barack Obama

Obama rules out change in federal law to legalise marijuana

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 August, 2013, 4:52am

US President Barack Obama does not support changing federal laws to legalise marijuana, his spokesman said.

The comments came after a prominent doctor - once touted as Obama's surgeon general - said the drug had "very legitimate medical applications".

White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said on Wednesday that although Obama thought that "targeting individual marijuana users is not the best allocation for federal law enforcement resources", he did not "at this point advocate a change in the law".

He said Obama thought that law enforcement should prioritise "drug kingpins, drug traffickers and others who perpetrate violence in the conduct of the drug trade".

Under federal law, all marijuana sales are illegal. It is classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, in the same category as heroin and LSD.

The administration's stance on legalisation is being viewed closely by advocacy groups and in the states of Washington and Colorado, each of which voted last November to legalise, regulate and tax marijuana. Advocates say it will be impossible for those states to tax and sell the drug next year if the US government does not give them a pass on violating federal laws.

Earnest's remarks came as reporters asked him about a reversal by CNN's chief medical correspondent, Sanjay Gupta, who was once considered a candidate for surgeon general.

Gupta wrote on CNN's website two weeks ago that he had "come to the realisation that it is irresponsible not to provide the best care we can as a medical community, care that could involve marijuana".