Marijuana: Obama's wrong about his ability to reschedule pot, advocate says
President Barack Obama may be regretting his decision to talk marijuana in an interview last month. After telling the New Yorker that, in his opinion, pot is less risky than alcohol for the individual user, Obama was asked in a CNN followup if he'd consider rescheduling cannabis, currently listed by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a drug whose dangers rival heroin's. He replied that only Congress can do that, but a prominent marijuana advocate says he's wrong and offers documentation to support his argument.
Photos, video and more below.
As we've reported, the David Remnick-penned New Yorker piece quotes Obama acknowledging that "I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life."
But then he added, "I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol."
When asked if he believes marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol, Obama maintained that it wasn't as problematic "in terms of its impact on the individual consumer."
Photo by Eric Gruneisen Obama during a 2012 campaign appearance in Boulder.
Afterward, marijuana advocates such as Mason Tvert praised Obama's statement, and Colorado Representative Jared Polis even offered to take the President on a guided tour of a marijuana store and grow. But push-back followed Obama's subsequent sit-down with CNN's Jake Tapper.
We've shared a video and partial transcript of the interview below, but in response to Tapper's question about whether he's considering "not making marijuana a Schedule One narcotic," Obama replied, "Well, first of all, what is and isn't a Schedule One narcotic is a job for Congress."
"I think it's the DEA that decides," Tapper interjected.
Obama disagreed. In his words, "It's -- it's not -- it's not something by ourselves that we start changing. No, there are laws under -- undergirding those determinations...."
If that's the case, notes Marijuana Majority chairman Tom Angell, there's nothing on the Justice Department web page about drug scheduling that alludes to such a procedure. Indeed, the regulations, which we've also included below, repeatedly state that decisions about scheduling are made by the U.S. Attorney General, a presidential appointee -- currently Eric Holder.
Does this mean Obama doesn't understand how the process work? Or is he merely attempting to dodge responsibility for rescheduling because he fears the political consequences of making such a move without Congressional support?
Here's Angell's take, shared with Westword via e-mail.
Tom Angell as seen in a photo taken during a Denver visit.
"It's very unfortunate that President Obama appears to want to pass the buck to Congress when it comes to marijuana laws, especially when his State of the Union speech...focused on actions he can take to move America forward without having to wait for the legislative branch to get its act together," Angell writes.
He adds, "If the president truly believes what he says about marijuana, he has a moral imperative to make the law match up with his views and the views of the majority of the American people, without delay."
The bottom line, from Angell's perspective: "He should initiate the long overdue rescheduling of marijuana today."
Continue to see a CNN video, read a partial transcript, and see information about scheduling drugs from the Department of Justice.