Obama administration's pot policy found confusing

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Associated Press

Posted on February 4, 2014 at 4:04 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 4 at 7:33 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Figuring out where the Obama administration stands on marijuana is starting to get confusing.

The White House-run Office of National Drug Control Policy considers marijuana a dangerous and harmful drug. The Drug Enforcement Administration labels it a top-tier illegal drug under federal law.

But President Barack Obama, an acknowledged pot smoker in his younger days, recently told The New Yorker magazine that he doesn't see marijuana as any more dangerous than alcohol and said it was "important" that the recent legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington state go forward.

So what is the government's position? Members of Congress on Tuesday pressed Michael Botticelli, deputy director of the drug-control agency, on that question during a hearing in the House of Representatives.

"The administration continues to oppose attempts legalize marijuana and other drugs," Botticelli told a House Oversight subcommittee.

The panel's chairman, Rep. John Mica, described the administration's position on marijuana as "schizophrenic."

Obama has been quick to say that he doesn't think smoking marijuana is a good idea.

The Justice Department issued a policy memo last year that essentially pledges to keep clear of marijuana businesses in states that have legalized the drug, as long as they follow a series of strict guidelines. The memo was received as an encouraging development by the growing legal pot market.

Some lawmakers have worried that easing enforcement of federal marijuana laws will allow criminals into the market. Botticelli referred such questions to the Justice Department but insisted that the administration has been consistent on its stand against legal pot.

Mica and other Republicans disagreed.

"We've gone from 'just say no,' then we had 'I didn't inhale,' and now we have 'just say maybe' or 'just go ahead,' Mica said, pointing out certain former presidents' statements on the issue.

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