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President Obama discourages drug use, but won’t go after Washington pot smokers

President Barack Obama says he will not go after Washington state and Colorado for legalizing marijuana. He says the federal government has "bigger fish to fry." (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo)

President Obama says the federal government will not go after recreational marijuana users in Washington, now that pot is legal in our state.

“We’ve got bigger fish to fry,” Obama told Barbara Walters in an interview ABC News will air tonight.

This is Mr. Obama’s first public comment on the topic since voters in Washington legalized marijuana in November. The law took effect last week.

Walters asked the president if he supports making pot legal.

“I wouldn’t go that far,” he responded.

He also said the federal government is not worried about people who smoke a small amount of marijuana.

“It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal,” Obama says.

The issue is a tricky one because any institution that receives federal funding is following federal law, rather than state law regarding marijuana. The differences need to be worked out.

“This is a tough problem, because Congress has not yet changed the law,” says Obama. “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?”

Obama wrote in his 1995 memoir, “Dreams from My Father,” that he smoked pot regularly with his high school friends.

“There are a bunch of things I did that I regret when I was a kid,” Obama tells Walters.

“My attitude is, substance abuse generally is not good for our kids, not good for our society,” he says. “I want to discourage drug use.”

By LINDA THOMAS

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