President Obama's drug policies are encouraging increased marijuana use, a top Republican lawmaker charged Tuesday.
Rep. Lamar Smith (Texas), the top Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee who would likely become chairman of the committee under a GOP majority, accused the administration of being too lax in its enforcement of drug laws.
"The administration is clearly sending the message that they don't think it's bad to use marijuana," Smith said on Fox News. "So they're encouraging the use of marijuana. And that simply is not a good thing to do."
Smith blamed the administration's decision to not enforce federal laws against marijuana dispensaries in states that have legalized the drug for medicinal purposes. Smith blamed the administration's approach on drug laws for recent statistics showing an increased use of marijuana.
"We ought to be enforcing our drug laws, not backing away from them," said Smith, who also lamented a recent revision of criminal sentencing guidelines that reduced sentencing guidelines for crack-cocaine traffickers. Proponents of the law in both parties had pushed that reform because sentencing for crack-related drug crimes were much more severe than for similar amounts of cocaine, a disparity which fueled a racial divide in drug sentencing.
Obama has publicly said several times now that he does not favor legalizing marijuana, particularly as a way to raise tax revenue.
"The answer is, no, I don't think that is a good strategy to grow our economy," he said at an August online town hall.
The administration faces a key test from California voters this fall in its approach toward marijuana policy, though. The state's voters are set to cast their ballots on an initiative legalizing the drug for tax and regulation purposes.
A SurveyUSA poll released in early September found that California voters narrowly favor that ballot initiative, 47-43 percent, with 10 percent undecided.