Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Thursday that the administration is only targeting marijuana operations that have exceeded state laws, countering claims of marijuana advocates that President Obama is breaking his campaign promise not to go after operations in states that have legalized the drug’s use for medical purposes.
Mr. Holder said federal officials are not going after those who are staying within the confines of their states’ medical marijuana laws, but said some have “come up with ways in which they are taking advantage of these state laws.”
“We limit our enforcement efforts to those individuals, organizations that are acting out of conformity with state law,” Mr. Holder told a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing.
Mr. Holder’s department oversees the Drug Enforcement Administration, which has conducted the raids.
During the 2008 campaign Mr. Obama promised to make marijuana use a lower priority, and early in 2009, after the first DEA raid during his tenure, the White House issued a condemnation and said it was a holdover of the George W. Bush administration policy.
But in recent months, marijuana advocates contend the administration is stepping up its law enforcement efforts, including a raid by DEA and IRS agents on Richard Lee, a prominent marijuana activist in Oakland, Calif.
At Thursday’s hearing Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, questioned Mr. Holder about the administration’s policy and Mr. Holder said his department tries to focus on marijuana operations that stretch state laws or, in the case of raids in Colorado, where distribution centers were placed near schools.