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updated: 12/14/2012 8:03 PM

Obama: Pot use 'not a priority' where it's now legal

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  • Marijuana plants flourish under the lights at a grow house in Denver.

    Marijuana plants flourish under the lights at a grow house in Denver.
    Associated Press/Nov. 8

Bloomberg News

President Barack Obama said federal law enforcement authorities have "bigger fish to fry" than prosecution of marijuana users in the two states where voters decriminalized recreational use in last month's election.

"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," the president said in a recorded interview with ABC News scheduled for broadcast tonight.

Voters in Colorado and Washington approved ballot measures legalizing the possession of up to one ounce (28 grams) of marijuana. The drug remains illegal under federal law.

Medical use of marijuana is permitted in 17 states and the District of Columbia.

Obama told ABC he doesn't support broader legalization of marijuana "at this point." He said public opinion has been shifting and the federal government has limited resources to pursue users.

"What we're going to need to have is a conversation about," he said, is "how do you reconcile a federal law that still says marijuana is a federal offense and state laws that say that it's legal?"

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday the Justice Department will announce "relatively soon" its policy on the state measures.

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