Policymakers in Washington are confounded by mainstream attitudes towards marijuana. According to a recent Pew survey, 52 percent of adults are in favor of legalizing pot, up 11 points since 2010.
While the Justice Department promised last November to review the conflict existing as states begin legalizing marijuana while the substance remains criminalized by federal authorities. Seven months later, there has been no answer.
"We are certainly going to enforce federal law. ... When it comes to these marijuana initiatives, I think among the kinds of things we will have to consider is the impact on children,” Attorney General Eric Holder told Congress in April, the Associated Press Reported.
Obama told reporters in May: "I honestly do not believe that legalizing drugs is the answer. But I do believe that a comprehensive approach — not just law enforcement, but prevention and education and treatment — that's what we have to do."
The Associated Press pointed out the current contradictions on cannibis: Marijuana has a more favorable view although science is revealing more about the dangers of cannabis, particularly for young people; states are legalizing pot although it is federally prohibited; and there are so many federal stumbling blocks to marijuana research that the drug’s potential medical benefit is still largely unknown.
In the past the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA), concluded that there is no scientific evidence to support the safety or efficacy of marijuana for medical use.
"We're going to get a cultural divide here pretty quickly," says Greg Strimple, a Republican pollster based in Boise, Idaho. Strimple believes the president will avoid the issue as long as possible.
"There's no real win on this from a political perspective," said Kevin Sabet, a former drug policy adviser in the Obama administration. "Do you want to be the president that stops a popular cause, especially a cause that's popular within your own party? Or do you want to be the president that enables youth drug use that will have ramifications down the road?"