Obama Administration and Congress can each reclassify marijuana for medical use

Washington, D.C. -- Medical Marijuana advocates are telling President Obama he has the power to reclassify marijuana after he said today it is up to Congress. In an exclusive CNN interview, President Barack Obama responded to a question about the federal government's classification of marijuana by saying that, "what is and isn't a Schedule I narcotic is a job for Congress."

"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."

In addition to Congress, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the U.S. Attorney General have the authority to reschedule marijuana. Congress in 1970 classified marijuana as a Schedule I substance, meaning it is considered a dangerous drug with a high potential for abuse and has no accepted medical value. Since then, scientists have discovered the plant has unique therapeutic potential to safely treat a remarkably broad range of serious medical conditions, from multiple sclerosis to cancer. 

ASA, as part of the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC), filed a petition in 2002 to reclassify marijuana for medical use. The Drug Enforcement Administration denied the petition in July 2011 and subsequently fought ASA's appeal to the D.C. Circuit.

In 2011, the governors of Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington filed their own joint petition to reclassify marijuana for medical use. The same year, 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.

Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) is currently circulating a sign-on letter among his colleagues in Congress, urging President Obama to exercise his administration's authority to reclassify marijuana for medical use.

"If the president is seeking the support of Congress, he should at least say that he'd sign such a bill if it landed on his desk," said Sherer.

Further information:
CNN interview with President Obama: http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/31/politics/obama-interview/index.html?hpt=hp_t1
DEA denial of CRC petition: http://american-safe-access.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/CRC_Petition_DEA_Answer.pdf

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