It's time for the White House to step up and clarify its stance on marijuana.
At least 17 states – including Arizona – and the District of Columbia have passed laws that legalize the use of medical marijuana for qualified patients. The specifics of the laws vary from state to state.
And in November, voters in Washington and Colorado passed measures that legalize marijuana for recreational use.
However, the pro-marijuana measures are completely contrary to federal law, where marijuana – in any form, for any reason – is still illegal.
Over the last couple of years, California's U.S. attorneys have criminally prosecuted large growers. And last year, they threatened landlords with property forfeiture, which led to hundreds of medical marijuana shops closing their doors.
However, in Washington state, prior to the state's full legalization of marijuana, federal authorities left the majority of the medicinal marijuana dispensaries alone, unless they were acting outside of state law.
But on Friday, President Obama muddied the water even further when he noted that federal authorities have “bigger fish to fry” than recreational marijuana users in Colorado and Washington.
It begs the question – why are the recreational users flying under the radar, while the U.S. attorneys continue to pursue the medicinal growers? It seems as though the U.S. attorneys and the president are taking somewhat contrary positions to one another.
The momentum toward legalizing medicinal marijuana seems to be growing steadily, and several other states have passed or are considering laws that lower the criminal penalties associated with marijuana possession.
The White House needs to take some time and decide if our nation's marijuana laws are appropriate, or if they need to be changed.