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Obama not high on reopening marijuana debate

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Obama not high on reopening

marijuana debate

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WASHINGTON -- Of the pressing policy questions facing the White House this week -- Syria, the National Security Agency, Egypt -- it was another administration officials feared would create the biggest buzz.

"Given the reported medical benefits of marijuana, does the president believe the government should reconsider?" a CNN correspondent asked about the federally banned substance during the White House briefing Wednesday.

No, spokesman Josh Earnest answered, President Barack Obama isn't high on such a change "at this point." With a chuckle, he added: "I have the sneaking suspicion that this is going to draw me all kinds of traffic on Twitter."

The issue may seem superfluous, but consider this: Since Obama took office in 2009, questions about whether he would support legalizing marijuana -- for medical or recreational use -- have been among the most popular among the public. He has been asked at town-hall meetings, in online petitions on the White House's website and in an interview with ABC News's Barbara Walters in December.

"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 told Walters a month after voters in Colorado and Washington supported initiatives to legalize marijuana, though it remains illegal under federal statutes.

When the White House created an online petition program called We the People in 2011, marijuana-related petitions were so popular the administration issued four separate responses to 13 petitions with hundreds of thousands of total signatories.

But for all the public pressure, legalization advocates said the president has disappointed them. Though candidate Obama spoke convincingly about his open-mindedness on the issue in 2008, they said, Obama has largely failed to rein in a Justice Department accused of running roughshod over state-approved medical marijuana clinics during the George W. Bush administration.

Under Obama, the advocates said, federal enforcement has increased.

-- The Washington Post

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 24, 2013 A8

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