Pubdate: Sun, 31 Jan 2016
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2016 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Note: Seldom prints LTEs from outside it's circulation area.
Author: Christopher Ingraham
Note: Ingraham writes for The Washington Post.


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

Cohen said he asked the president whether he wanted to "reschedule" 
marijuana. The federal government currently considers marijuana a 
Schedule 1 controlled substance, "the most dangerous class of drugs 
with a high potential for abuse and potentially severe psychological 
and/or physical dependence." Many lawmakers want to see it moved to 
Schedule 2, which acknowledges the plant's medical potential. 
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders wants to remove 
marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances altogether.

But Obama's answer on the rescheduling 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 (emphasis his).

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 on 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 
pro-marijuana group Marijuana Majority said in an email. "It's 
unacceptable and frankly embarrassing for a president who has so 
nonchalantly acknowledged his own marijuana use to allow the federal 
government to continue classifying cannabis in such an inappropriate category."

There is an administrative process in place for the DEA to reschedule 
or deschedule 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," 
their report found.

The DEA is reviewing another petition to reschedule pot, but given 
the history, most observers are skeptical that anything will change 
this time around.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom