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President's pot comments prompt call for national policy

  • In this Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011 file photo,, State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, left, gestures as State Senator Mark Leno, right, looks on during a news conference calling for the end of Federal attacks on medical marijuana dispensaries in San Francisco. Ammiano has said he was “frustrated” by Obama's recent comments, saying the federal government needs to stop shuttering dispensaries in states with medical marijuana laws, including California. “A good step here would be to stop raiding those legal dispensaries who are doing what they are allowed to do by law". (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

SAN FRANCISCO — President Barack Obama says he won't go after pot users in Colorado and Washington, two states that just legalized the drug for recreational use. But advocates argue the president said the same thing about medical marijuana — and yet U.S. attorneys continue to force the closure of dispensaries across the U.S.

Welcome to the confusing and often conflicting policy on pot in the U.S., where medical marijuana is legal in many states, but it is increasingly difficult to grow, distribute or sell it. And at the federal level, at least officially, it is still an illegal drug everywhere.

Obama's statement Friday provided little clarity in a world where marijuana is inching ever so carefully toward legitimacy.

That conflict is perhaps the greatest in California, where the state's four U.S. Attorneys criminally prosecuted large growers and launched a coordinated crackdown on the state's medical marijuana industry last year by threatening landlords with property forfeiture actions. Hundreds of pot shops went out of business.

Steve DeAngelo, executive director of an Oakland, Calif., dispensary that claims to be the nation's largest, called for a federal policy that treats recreational and medical uses of the drug equally.


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