WASHINGTON -- Despite President Barack Obama's recent comments stating that marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol, the White House said Wednesday that his opposition to marijuana legalization still stands.
"The president's position on these matters hasn't changed," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at his daily press briefing, when asked if Obama was warming up to the decriminalization of marijuana.
The question was raised after Obama reignited the marijuana debate earlier this week, when he told the New Yorker that the health risks of marijuana posed no greater risk than those of alcohol. The president also discussed the need to reform how individuals are prosecuted for marijuana use under current drug laws, and said it was "important" for new laws in Colorado and Washington that legalized recreational marijuana to go forward.
"We should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing," Obama said.
Carney emphasized Wednesday that Obama was simply talking about the "the disparities in our prosecution of our drug laws," and does not encourage marijuana use, which he sees as "a bad habit and a vice."
"He's not endorsing any specific move by a state," Carney said. "He's simply making an observation, his position of these matters has not changed."
Many nonetheless saw the president's remarks as a major shift in tone, given the extent to which his administration has cracked down on the use of medical marijuana, even in states where it's legal. While the Obama administration announced in August that it would not stop Washington and Colorado from legalizing recreational marijuana use, the president has yet to throw his support behind changes to the legal classification of marijuana.
The Drug Enforcement Administration currently classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance, which the DEA regards as "the most dangerous class of drugs with a high potential for abuse and potentially severe psychological and/or physical dependence."