President Obama on White House Weed Stance: "We're Supposed to Be Carrying Out Laws." Oh Is That a New Thing For This Administration?

The president's chosen not to enforce laws before, why not again?


ABC News is airing a Barbara Walters interview with President Obama tonight where the president finally responds to the legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado; the president indicated there were "bigger fish to fry" than small-time recreational users, but as Jacob Sullum pointed out last night the real issue is whether the federal government will pursue commercial marijuana growers and retailers. Marijuana is legal in Colorado and Washington, but getting it into the hands of smokers in those states does require someone somewhere to break a law or two. So the following quote from tonight's interview really stands out:

"This is a tough problem, because Congress has not yet changed the law," Obama said. "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?"

In the words of Nancy Pelosi, "are you serious?" President Obama has played fast and loose with the laws before, so long as they fit his political agenda. Even as immigration enforcement ramped up during his first term, this summer saw him selectively stop enforcement of the law to prevent losing support in a key demographic. An even better example is President Obama's approach to No Child Left Behind, also a law the executive branch is "supposed to be carrying out". Yet under the Obama Administration, schools in more than half the country have been waived from its requirements. Those waivers were requested by Democrats and Republicans alike, yet in not one state was No Child Left Behind rejected by popular referendum. In Washington and Colorado, voters rejected the federal war on marijuana. For a constitutional law professor this ought to be a no brainer.