* Voters in Washington, Colorado have spoken, president says
* Says would not go so far as to say drug should be legal
* Use among children, related violence still a concern
By Susan Heavey
WASHINGTON, Dec 14 U.S. President Barack Obama
says federal authorities should not target recreational
marijuana use in two Western states where it has been made legal
given limited government resources and growing public acceptance
of the controlled substance.
His first comments on the issue come weeks after Washington
state and Colorado voters supported legalizing pot, or cannabis,
last month in ballot measures that stand in direct opposition of
"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," he told ABC
News in part of an interview released on Friday.
"At this point (in) Washington and Colorado, 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," Obama said.
The Department of Justice has said pot remains a federally
controlled substance and states have been looking for guidance
from Washington on how it will handle the conflict with state
Medical use of the substance is legal in 18 U.S. states. But
federal officials have still continued to crack down on some
providers in those states.
Pot remains an illegal narcotic under U.S. law, but
Washington and Colorado became the first states in the nation to
legalize recreational marijuana use on Nov. 6. A similar effort
in Oregon failed.
Obama called the situation "a tough problem, because
Congress has not yet changed the law." He told ABC that "what
we're going to need to have is a conversation about" how to
reconcile federal and state laws, and that he has asked U.S.
Attorney General Eric Holder to examine the issue.
In his 1995 memoir, "Dreams of My Father," Obama admitted to
regularly smoking pot in high school. The father of two told ABC
that he would not go so far as to say pot should be legalized
altogether. There are also concerns about drug use in children
and violence, he told ABC, according to its website.
"I want to discourage drug use," he added.
The new measures in Washington and Colorado, which already
permit medical marijuana use, allow possession of up to an ounce
of the substance for private use. They also will regulate and
tax sales at special stores for those aged 21 and older.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Jackie Frank)