Congress Calls on President Obama to Use His Authority to Reclassify Marijuana Letter signed by eighteen federal legislators says marijuana's current status "makes no sense"

February 12, 2014 | Kris Hermes

Washington, D.C. -- Eighteen Members of Congress joined together today in calling on President Obama to use his authority to reclassify marijuana from its current position as a dangerous drug, alongside heroin and LSD, with no medical value. A letter sent by federal legislators today says that marijuana's current status "makes no sense," and requests that President Obama "instruct Attorney General Holder to delist or classify marijuana in a more appropriate way." The Congressional letter comes just days after Obama told The New Yorker magazine that marijuana was less dangerous than alcohol.

Although marijuana was sold as an over-the-counter medicine until the 1930s, produced by the likes of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970 classified marijuana as a Schedule I substance. Ignoring White House-appointed commissions, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) judges, and reports, all calling for marijuana's reclassification, the federal government has refused to recognize the medical science and popular will in order to maintain marijuana's current status.

"Classifying marijuana as Schedule I at the federal level perpetuates an unjust and irrational system," read the Congressional letter. "Schedule I recognizes no medical use, disregarding both medical evidence and the laws of nearly half of the states that have legalized medical marijuana." In a separate statement, the letter's lead author Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) said that reclassifying marijuana "is a step the administration can take to start to rationalize federal marijuana policy to bring it in line with the advances that are happening in the states."

In addition to Representative Blumenauer, the Congressional letter sent to President Obama today was co-signed by Representatives Steve Cohen (D-TN), Sam Farr (D-CA), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Mike Honda (D-CA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), James McGovern (D-MA), James Moran (D-VA), Beto O'Rourke (D-TX), Jared Polis (D-CO), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), and Peter Welch (D-VT).

The CSA gives authority for rescheduling controlled substances to Congress, but it also grants executive branch authority to the U.S. Attorney General and the DEA. "President Obama just told the nation during his State of the Union address that because Congress has been unable to act, he would take executive action where he could on behalf of helping the American people," said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country's largest medical marijuana advocacy group. "The president has the authority to reclassify marijuana and could exercise that authority at any time."

Last year, a legal battle to reclassify marijuana at the federal level ended in the D.C. Circuit. The Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC) had filed a petition in 2002 to reclassify marijuana for medical use, which the DEA denied in July 2011. However, the governors of Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington filed their own joint petition that year to reclassify marijuana for medical use. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper filed a separate but similar petition, which he was mandated to do according to his state's medical marijuana law. Both of these petitions are currently pending before the DEA, and the Obama Administration could approve them at any time.

Further information:
Congressional letter calling on Obama to reclassify marijuana: http://blumenauer.house.gov/images/stories/2014/02-12-14%20Blumenauer%20Rescheduling%20Letter.pdf

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