In response to a question about the White House's stance on marijuana legalization, principal deputy press secretary Josh Earnest (he's also a special assistant to the president) went for laughs rather than answer the reporter's query at the Apr. 20 presser.
Near the end of the conference (see below), Earnest pointed to a reporter for CQ Roll Call, Steve Dennis, who asked: "Before going to Martha's Vineyard, Sanjay Gupta had an interesting column in CNN about marijuana - changed his mind. He had been at one point considered by the President to be the surgeon general pick a number of years ago. I'm wondering if the White House has any reaction to that column and also if the President has been personally looking at that issue, given that the polls on marijuana have changed quite a bit since he took office in favor of legalization. Is there any change in his outlook on it?"
Earnest's reply drew scattered guffaws in the crowd: "Steve, when I called on you I don't think I could ever have predicted that this was the question you were going to ask me. That's really in the potpourri category of questions for this one. I have to confess I did not see the Sanjay Gupta column that you're referring to, so it's hard for me to comment on it at this point."
On Apr. 21, Jessica Yellin of CNN followup with this question: "Given the reported medical benefits of marijuana, does the president think the government should reconsider this classification? (She was referring to marijuana's status as a Schedule 1 drug in the Controlled Substances Act.)
Earnest replied: "The administration's position on this has been clear and consistent for some time now, that while the prosecution of drug trafficking remains an important priority, the president and the administration believe that targeting individual marijuana users, especially those with serious illnesses and their caregivers, is not the best allocation of federal law enforcement resources. I looked it up and the president last talked about this in an interview he had with Barbara Walters in December when she asked a similar question. The president acknowledged that the priority, in terms of the dedication of law enforcement resources, should be targeted toward drug kingpins, traffickers and others who perpetrate violence in the conduct of the drug trade. But at the same time, the president does not at this point advocate a change in the law."