Pubdate: Sat, 30 Jan 2016
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2016 The Washington Post Company
Author: Christopher Ingraham


Marijuana advocates hoping for a substantial shift in federal 
marijuana policy in the last year of the Obama administration are 
likely to be disappointed.

At a briefing Friday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said 
any marijuana reform would need to come through Congress. President 
Obama had signaled his position a day earlier at the House Democratic 
retreat in Baltimore, saying that marijuana reform is not on his list 
of end-of term priorities, according to Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.).

The federal government categorizes marijuana as a Schedule I 
controlled substance, "the most dangerous class of drugs with a high 
potential for abuse and potentially severe psychological and/or 
physical dependence." Some lawmakers, including Cohen, want to see it 
moved to Schedule II, acknowledging the plant's medical potential. 
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont 
wants marijuana removed from the federal list of controlled substances.

But when asked about rescheduling the drug, Obama's answer was 
"disappointing," Cohen said in an interview. "On marijuana, he gave 
the same answer as when I asked him seven years ago: 'If you get me a 
bill and get it on my desk, I'll probably sign it,' " Cohen said.

At the briefing, Earnest clarified further: "There are some in the 
Democratic Party who have urged the president to take this kind of 
action. The president's response was, 'If you feel so strongly about 
it, and you believe there is so much public support for what it is 
that you're advocating, then why don't you pass legislation about it 
and we'll see what happens.' "

Obama's approach to the issue has long frustrated activists. "This 
isn't the first time President Obama has unnecessarily tried to pass 
the buck on marijuana rescheduling to Congress," Tom Angell of the 
group Marijuana Majority said in an email.

An administrative process exists for the Drug Enforcement Agency to 
reschedule or de schedule a drug. But, as the Brookings Institution 
has noted, the DEA has historically not been eager to take action on 
this front. "Four petitions that have been initiated to reschedule 
marijuana or remove it from the schedules entirely have been denied 
or stalled by DEA with disposition times ranging from five to more 
than 20 years," an October 2015 report by Brookings found.

The latest public opinion polls show broad support not just for 
marijuana reform but also for full legalization: 58 percent of 
Americans want to see marijuana use fully legalized, according to the 
latest Gallup polling on the issue. A 2015 CBS News poll found that 
84 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana for medical use.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom