Two weeks ago, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked President Barack Obama if he would consider reclassifying marijuana from its current status as a Schedule I drug in the Controlled Substances Act. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, Schedule I drugs are “considered the most dangerous class of drugs with a high potential for abuse and potentially severe psychological and/or physical dependence.” All Schedule I drugs are ruled to have no medical use.
Tapper’s question to Obama is a fair one. With roughly half the states in the union legalizing medical marijuana and Obama himself admitting that cannabis is no more dangerous than alcohol, it looks as though marijuana meets none of the criteria for a Schedule I drug. Here’s how Obama answered the question:
“Well, first of all,” he said, “what is and isn’t a Schedule I narcotic is a job for Congress.”
Legislators in Congress wasted no time acting on the president’s words.
Today, 18 members of Congress sent Obama a formal letter asking him to reclassify marijuana's status in the CSA. The letter says marijuana’s current status as a Schedule I drug “makes no sense.”
“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 letter reads. “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.”
The letter goes on to say that classifying marijuana as a Schedule I drug disregards “both medical evidence and the laws of nearly half the states that have legalized medical marijuana.”
The Controlled Substances Act gives Congress the authority to reclassify substances. But it also grants that same authority to the U.S. Attorney General and the Drug Enforcement Agency. With Congress declining to take up the issue, the letter sent to the president asks him to direct Attorney General Eric Holder to take action.
“We request that you 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,” the letter says, adding that “one would hope that your Administration officials publicly reflect your views on this matter.”
According to a recent study by John Gettman and researchers at Drugscience.org, marijuana prohibition costs American taxpayers an estimated $42 billion annually.