WASHINGTON — President Obama said the federal government won’t go after recreational marijuana users in Washington state and Colorado, where voters have legalized it.
In a Barbara Walters interview that aired Friday on ABC, Obama was asked whether he supports making pot legal.
‘‘I wouldn’t go that far,’’ Obama replied. ‘‘But what I think is that, at this point, Washington and Colorado — you’ve seen the voters speak on this issue.’’
The president said he won’t pursue the issue in the two states that legalized the use of marijuana in the November elections.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
‘‘As it is, the federal government has a lot to do when it comes to criminal prosecutions,’’ Obama said. ‘‘It does not make sense, from a prioritization point of view, for us to focus on recreational drug users in a state that has already said that under state law, that’s legal.’’
Marijuana officially became legal in Washington state and Colorado this month.
The Justice Department hasn’t targeted recreational marijuana users for decades. With limited resources, its focus has been to go after major drug traffickers instead.
Nonetheless, the Justice Department has said repeatedly in recent weeks that it is reviewing the legalization initiatives passed in Colorado and Washington state.
The states have expressed concern that the federal government might sue over the issue. Department officials have said they are waiting to see what regulations the two states adopt to implement the initiatives. Obama’s remarks did not address that ongoing Justice Department review.
In the department’s most recent statement, the US attorney for Colorado said Monday that the department’s responsibility to enforce the federal Controlled Substances Act ‘‘remains unchanged.’’
‘‘Neither states nor the executive branch can nullify a statute passed by Congress,’’ US Attorney John Walsh said.