Obama Urged to Use Executive Powers to Reclassify Marijuana

Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!

Drug reform advocates are calling on President Obama to use his executive authority to reclassify marijuana in line with his own recently stated views. In an interview with The New Yorker magazine last month, Obama said he does not think marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol and called for treating it as a problem of public health. On Friday, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Obama if that would lead to a shift in policy.

Jake Tapper: "You said that you thought smoking pot was a bad habit, but you didn’t think it was any worse for a person than drinking. Now, that contradicts the official Obama administration policy, both on the website of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and also the fact that marijuana is considered a Schedule I narcotic, along with heroin and ecstasy. Now, do you think you were maybe talking just a little too casually about it with [David] Remnick in The New Yorker, or are you considering not making marijuana a Schedule I narcotic?"

President Obama: "Well, first of all, what is and isn’t a Schedule I narcotic is a job for Congress."

Jake Tapper: "I think it’s the DEA that decides that."

President Obama: "It’s not something by ourselves that we start changing. No, there are laws undergirding those determinations."

Despite Obama’s claim that marijuana’s status is up to Congress, both the Drug Enforcement Administration and the attorney general have the authority to reclassify. In a statement, the medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access said: "President Obama told the nation during his State of the Union address that he would take executive action where he could on behalf of helping the American people. The president has the authority to reclassify marijuana and could exercise that authority at any time."