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Obama Marijuana Policy Shift? Gil Kerlikowske Notes 'Serious National Conversation' On Pot

If you were to ask the marijuana nation if President Obama is friend or foe, the answer would probably be the latter.

The Obama administration has cracked down on medical marijuana dispensaries in states such as California despite his vow that such prosecution would not be a priority.

But now decriminalization activists are wondering aloud if Obama's White House really is softening up on weed:

A recent online "We the People" petition on the White House website asks the administration to "Remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substance Act and allow the states to decide how they want to regulate it."

Drug czar Gil Kerlikowske responds, perhaps, with a fig leaf:

... It is clear that we're in the midst of a serious national conversation about marijuana ...

He goes on to reiterate Obama's famous words to Barbara Walters following the November election, including this quote:

Obama Marijuana Policy Shift? Gil Kerlikowske Notes 'Serious National Conversation' On Pot
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... 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.

Tom Angell, chairman of the Washington, D.C.-based group Marijuana Majority, was heartened. He sent this statement to the Weekly last night:

I guess it makes a difference when marijuana legalization gets more votes than your boss does in an important swing state, as happened in Colorado this last election. From 'legalization is not in my vocabulary and it's not in the president's,' as Gil Kerlikowske often used to say, to 'it is clear that we're in the midst of a serious national conversation about marijuana' is a pretty stark shift. Of course, what really matters is to what extent the administration actually shifts enforcement priorities and budgets, but I sure do like hearing the US drug czar acknowledge the fact that marijuana legalization is a mainstream discussion that is happening whether he likes it or not.

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@dennisjromero

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djromero@laweekly.com

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