In an interview with ABC News, President Obama stated that his administration won’t prosecute marijuana users in Washington, Colorado, or other states where recreational use is legal.
The president told Barbara Walters, “We’ve got bigger fish to fry. It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal.” Obama said that he does not support legalization, “at this point,” but he noted that public opinion is shifting on the issue.
President Obama said, “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?”
Obama’s answer to his own question appears to be something that Republicans preach, but rarely practice. It is a concept that is foreign to current the Republican Party. He is respecting the will of the voters. Barack Obama is demonstrating a greater advocacy for states’ rights than the Republicans who supposedly champion them.
In the same way that Republicans are ignoring the will of a majority of voters on raising taxes on the wealthy and tackling the deficit with a balanced approach, they are also many of the same people who are wringing their hands and dying to prosecute legal marijuana users.
The country is seeing the same kind of public opinion shift on marijuana legalization that is also occurring on same sex marriage.
These public opinion shifts are part of generational cultural change that is already impacting our public policy. The conservative culture warriors are facing dinosaur like extinction. While people like Bill O’Reilly are still going on 8 minute rants about the march of secularization, the rest of the country is moving forward.
Obama sees this shift happening, but as he stated, he also has to balace a responsibility to existing federal drug laws. Since there is zero chance of these laws ever being changed while Republicans control the House and have enough votes in the Senate to obstruct, the best the president can do is agree to respect the will of the majority in states where recreational marijuana use is legal.
Unless Republicans radically alter their position on marijuana, it is going to take a Democratic president and Congress to get something done on legalization. Republicans would be content to pretend like the nation is still living in the 1980s and keep the war on drugs raging on forever.
Democrats embrace and understand the fact that the country is changing. This is why they keep winning elections, while Republican hopes continue to go up in smoke.