President Obama said in an interview set to air Friday his administration is not likely to go after marijuana users in states that have legalized personal use of the drug.
"We've got bigger fish to fry," Obama said in an interview with ABC News's Barbara Walters.
Obama said he does not "at this point" support wider legalization efforts but also does not think it should be a focus of his administration.
Voters in Colorado and Washington have legalized recreational marijuana use, something the president acknowledged has created a conundrum by contradicting federal law.
"This is a tough problem, because Congress has not yet changed the law," Obama said. "I head up the executive branch; we're supposed to be carrying out laws. And so what we're going to need to have is a conversation about, how do you reconcile a federal law that still says marijuana is a federal offense and state laws that say that it's legal?"
Obama, who has acknowledged that he regularly smoked marijuana during his high school years, added that he wants "to discourage drug use."
"'There are a bunch of things I did that I regret when I was a kid,' Obama said. "My attitude is, substance abuse generally is not good for our kids, not good for our society."
In a poll released earlier this week by Gallup, 64 percent of Americans said the federal government should not step in to enforce marijuana laws in the states that had legalized the drug. Even among those who opposed the efforts by Colorado and Washington, more than 4 in 10 said the federal government should not get involved.