U.S.: President Obama Says Easing Up On Marijuana Is Congress's Job
By Steve Elliott
Barack Obama said in a new interview that it's up to Congress to remove marijuana from its listing as a Schedule I controlled substance, implying that he might support such a move.
In an interview with CNN that aired on Friday, Obama was asked about recent remarks he made to The New Yorker that marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol, reports Zeke J Miller at Time. The President was asked if he would push to remove cannabis from the Drug Enforcement Administration's list of the most dangerous drugs.
"First of all, what is and isn't a Schedule I narcotic is a job for Congress," Obama replied.
"I stand by my belief, based, I think, on the scientific evidence, that marijuana, for casual users, individual users, is subject to abuse, just like alcohol is and should be treated as a public health problem and challenge," the President said. "But as I said in the interview, my concern is when you end up having very heavy criminal penalties for individual users that have been applied unevenly, and in some cases, with a racial disparity."
A spokesman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) had tweeted on Wednesday that Attorney General Eric Holder could reclassify marijuana after a scientific review, but that it was "not likely given current science."
Obama, in the interview, wouldn't specifically back Congressional action to take marijuana off Schedule I.
But marijuana is already different from the other drugs on Schedule I. It is legalized for medicinal purposes in 20 states, and Colorado and Washington state in 2012 became the first to legalize it for recreational use. The Obama Administration has cautiously allowed those two states, along with the medical marijuana states, to move forward in implementing their state laws, but it has warned that it will react swiftly if pot crosses state lines or finds its way into the hands of minors.
"We're going to see what happens in the experiments in Colorado and Washington," Obama said. "The Department of Justice, you know, under Eric Holder, has said that we are going to continue to enforce federal laws. But in those states, we recognize that we don't have ... the resources to police whether somebody is smoking a joint on a corner. And we are trying to provide them structures to make sure that, you know, big time drug traffickers, the spillover effect of the violence, potentially, of a drug trade are not creeping out of this experiment."
Of course, if the President wants to see "the spillover effect of the violence ... of a drug trade," he has to look no farther than the failed experiment of drug prohibition.