U.S.: Obama Says Marijuana Reform Is Not On His Agenda For 2016
By Steve Elliott
It seems that cannabis activists who had hoped for a big shift in federal marijuana policies from the Obama Administration in its last year are likely to be disappointed.
White House press secretary John Earnest on Friday said any progress on cannabis law reform would have to come from Congress, reports Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post. President Obama had, a day earlier, said marijuana reform isn't on his list of end-of-term priorities, according to Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee).
Cohen said he'd asked the President whether he wanted to reschedule marijuana; the federal government considers cannabis a Schedule I substance, the most dangerous category, under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I drugs are considered to have a "high potential for abuse and potentially severe psychological and/or physical dependence."
Many lawmakers want to move pot to Schedule II, which would acknowledge the plant's medicinal potential, but would also effectively hand over control of it to Big Pharma, since prescriptions would be required.
Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders wants to DE-schedule marijuana, which means removing it from the federal list of controlled substances altogether.
Obama's answer on rescheduling, though, was "disappointing," Cohen said. "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 quoted the President as saying.
The federal classification of marijuana as being equally dangerous to heroin "breeds contempt for the government," Rep. Cohen said.
"There are some in the Democratic Party who have urged the President to take this kind of action," Earnest said at Friday's press briefing. "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 aabout it and we'll see what happens.'"
"This isn't the first time President Obama has unnecessarily tried to pass the buck on marijuana rescheduling to Congress," said Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority. "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."
Public opinion polls show broad support for legalization. Fifty-eight percent of Americans want to see cannabis fully legalized, according to the latest Gallup poll on the issue. Medical marijuana has even more support, with 84 percent of Americans backing in in a 2015 CBS news poll.
Photo of President Obama: Being Human