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Marijuana Legalization Would Promote Drug Use, DEA Contends

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This Nov. 8, 2012 file photo shows marijuana plants flourishing under the lights at a grow house in Denver. President Barack Obama says he won't go after Washington state and Colorado for legalizing marijuana. In a Barbara Walters interview airing Friday on ABC, Obama is asked whether he supports making pot legal. He says,
This Nov. 8, 2012 file photo shows marijuana plants flourishing under the lights at a grow house in Denver. President Barack Obama says he won't go after Washington state and Colorado for legalizing marijuana. In a Barbara Walters interview airing Friday on ABC, Obama is asked whether he supports making pot legal. He says, "I wouldn't go that far." (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, File)

WASHINGTON -- Recent state efforts to legalize marijuana pose a challenge for the Drug Enforcement Administration because they would increase marijuana's availability and promote drug use, the DEA said in a filing released Wednesday.

"Recently, efforts to legalize marijuana have increased. Keeping marijuana illegal reduces its availability and lessens willingness to use it," the DEA said in a financial statement for fiscal year 2012 made public on Wednesday. "Legalizing marijuana would increase accessibility and encourage promotion and acceptance of drug use."

The Justice Department is currently weighing how to respond to the legalization of recreational marijuana in the states of Colorado and Washington. Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, has acknowledged the country is "in the midst of a serious national conversation about marijuana," while President Barack Obama said pot users in Washington and Colorado would not be a priority for federal drug enforcement.

The DEA eradicated over 10.3 million marijuana plants in fiscal year 2009 and 10.3 million in fiscal year 2010, according to DEA data. That number has risen nearly every year since fiscal year 2004, when the DEA eradicated just over 3.2 million plants. Numbers aren't yet available for fiscal year 2011 or fiscal year 2012, but the department had 13,867 kilograms of marijuana in evidence at the end of September and disposed of 4,614 kilograms of the substance over the course of the year.

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