Pubdate: Wed, 12 Feb 2014
Source: U.S. News & World Report (US)
Copyright: 2014 U.S. News & World Report
Contact: (202) 955-2685
Author: Stevfen Nelson


Bipartisan group says pot's 'Schedule I' classification 'makes no
sense.' Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., right, and 17 House colleagues
are asking President Barack Obama to administratively reschedule

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., right, and 17 House colleagues are
asking President Barack Obama to administratively reschedule marijuana.

By Steven NelsonFeb. 12, 2014

Eighteen members of Congress are asking President Barack Obama, who
recently said smoking pot is safer than drinking alcohol, to end
marijuana's classification as one of the nation's most dangerous narcotics.

Marijuana is currently a "Schedule I" drug, meaning the federal
government considers it to have high potential for abuse and no
accepted medical value.

Obama's favorable comparison of marijuana to alcohol in a January New
Yorker interview, in which he also reiterated his pot use as a youth,
thrilled pro-marijuana activists. But his reluctance to promptly order
his attorney general, Eric Holder, to reschedule pot accordingly is a
frustration to the same policy reformers.

"You said that you don't believe marijuana is any more dangerous than
alcohol, a fully legalized substance, and believe it to be less
dangerous 'in terms of its impact on the individual consumer,'" the
members of Congress wrote to Obama on Wednesday. "This is true.
Marijuana, however, remains listed in the federal Controlled
Substances Act at Schedule I, the strictest classification, along with
heroin and LSD. This is a higher listing than cocaine and
methamphetamine, Schedule II substances that you gave as examples of
harder drugs. This makes no sense."

[READ: Marijuana Legalization May Win the West in 2014]

The Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which created five tiers of
restricted drugs, says the attorney general may "remove any drug or
other substance from the schedules if he finds that the drug or other
substance does not meet the requirements for inclusion in any schedule."

If a substance is banned by international treaties - as marijuana is -
the law grants the attorney general the power to place it "under the
schedule he deems most appropriate."

Obama seemed confused about his administration's power to reschedule
substances during a Jan. 30interview with CNN's Jake Tapper.

"What is and isn't a Schedule I narcotic is a job for Congress," Obama
told Tapper. "It's not something by ourselves that we start changing.
No, there are laws under - undergirding those determinations."

The cannabis caucus, however, is pointing to the law and asking Obama
to "instruct Attorney General Holder to delist or classify marijuana
in a more appropriate way, at the very least eliminating it from
Schedule I or II."

[CONGRESSMEN: DEA Boss 'Incompetent,' Should 'Assume a Japanese
Posture and Resign']

The letter asks for a classification lower than Schedule II to allow
legal recreational and medical marijuana businesses access to tax
benefits. Two states currently allow recreational marijuana use and
medical marijuana is legal in 20 states and Washington, D.C.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., who drafted the letter, told U.S. News
in January the Obama administration can reschedule marijuana
administratively much more quickly than Congress.

"I don't dispute that Congress could and should make the change, but
it's also something the administration could do in a matter of days,"
Blumenauer said. "We're in this 'Alice in Wonderland' world where the
country has moved on, but we're still arresting more than two-thirds
of a million people a year for something 58 percent of the population
believes should be legal."

The White House's press office did not respond to a request for
comment on the congressional letter, but advocacy groups quickly
released statements.

"No drug should be listed as Schedule I, which limits potentially
lifesaving research into both benefits and dangers of a substance and
guarantees a violent, illegal market for the product," said Law
Enforcement Against Prohibition Executive Director Neill Franklin in a
statement. "This is even more true of marijuana right now, when after
four decades of failure, states are doing their best to find something
that works and federal regulations keep interfering with their ability
to do so."

[READ: Sen. Sessions Makes Lady Gaga Poster Child for Pot

Dan Riffle, the Marijuana Policy Project's director of federal
policies, said: "When President Obama took office, he promised his
administration's policy decisions would be based on 'science and the
scientific process,' not politics or ideology. Every day marijuana
remains a Schedule I drug, his administration is breaking that promise."

Nearly 100,000 people have signed a petition urging Obama
to reschedule pot.

In addition to Blumenauer, the members of Congress who signed the
letter to Obama are Reps. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., Sam Farr, D-Calif.,
Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., Mike Honda, D-Calif., Jared Huffman, D-Calif.,
Barbara Lee, D-Calif., Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., Alan Lowenthal,
D-Calif., James McGovern, D-Mass., James Moran, D-Va., Beto O'Rourke,
D-Texas, Jared Polis, D-Colo., Mike Quigley, D-Ill, Dana Rohrabacher,
R-Calif., Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., and Peter
Welch, D-Vt.
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