Obama, Who Evidently Has Not Read the Controlled Substances Act, Denies That He Has the Power to Reclassify Marijuana

In an
with CNN’s Jake Tapper that aired last night,
President Obama tried to dodge responsibility for eliminating the
contradiction between his
recent comments
about marijuana and its classification as a
Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act:

Tapper: You said that 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 Remnick in
The New Yorker, or are you considering not making
marijuana a Schedule I narcotic?

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

Tapper: I think it’s the DEA that decides

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

Tapper: Would you support that move?

Instead of answering that question, Obama started talking about
a “public health” approach to marijuana (a subject I plan to
address in another post). But notice that Obama at first denied
that the executive branch has the power to reschedule drugs, saying
“what is and isn’t a Schedule I narcotic is a job for Congress.” As
Tapper pointed out, that’s not true. While Congress can amend the

Controlled Substances Act
 (CSA) to increase or reduce
restrictions on particular drugs, the statute also gives that power
to the attorney general, who has delegated it to the Drug
Enforcement Administration (a division of the Justice Department).
In fact, the DEA has repeatedly
petitions to reschedule marijuana, most recently in
2011. I forget: Who was president then?

Apparently Obama forgot too. Obama often speaks as if he is an
outside observer of his own administration—condemning
excessively long prison sentences while hardly ever using his
clemency power to shorten them, sounding
the alarm
 about his own abuses of executive power in the
name of fighting terrorism, worrying
about the threat to privacy posed by surveillance programs he
authorized. Now here he is, trying to distance himself from his own
administration’s refusal to reclassify marijuana.

When Tapper challenged that evasive maneuver, Obama tried
another one. “There are laws uindergirding those determinations,”
he said, implying that the language of the CSA somehow dictates
that marijuana remain on Schedule I. These are the statutory
criteria for drugs in that category:

(A) The drug or other substance has a high potential for

(B) The drug or other substance has no currently accepted
medical use in treatment in the United States.

(C) There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or
other substance under medical supervision.

The DEA argues that marijuana satisfies the first criterion
because people like to consume it for nonmedical purposes, which
according to the government qualifies as abuse. It’s illegal, after
all. According to that definition of abuse, prohibition justifies
itself, which hardly seems fair. A more reasonable view defines
abuse as harmful, excessive, or problematic use. Regardless of
which definition you prefer, it is hard to see in what meaningful
sense marijuana has a higher abuse potential than, say, the
barbiturates and benzodiazepines on Schedule III. According to the
DEA, even dronabinol has a lower abuse potential than marijuana.
What is dronabinol? A synthetic version of THC, the main
psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

The DEA says marijuana meets the second criterion—no currently
accepted medical use—not because the drug is ineffective at
treating symptoms such as nausea, pain, and muscle spasms (in fact,
the Obama administration
the medical utility of cannabinoids) but because such
uses have not gained wide enough acceptance within the medical
community. Given the subjectivity of that judgment, it amounts to
saying that marijuana has no accepted medical use because the DEA
deems medical use of marijuana unaccceptable. The agency likewise
does not accept that marijuana can be used safely, although it
obviously can, as Obama
when he observed that alcohol is more dangerous.

The DEA clearly is
bending over backward
to keep marijuana on Schedule I, and
nothing in the CSA requires it to do that. It could easily apply
the CSA’s criteria in a way that would make marijuana less
restricted, and the decision not to do so is ultimately Obama’s. He
is the one who appointed the current DEA administrator, a hardline
holdover from the Bush administration who is so committed to
prohibitionist orthodoxy that she recoils in horror at the thought
of a hemp flag flying over the Capitol and could not restrain
herself from
openly criticizing
Obama, notionally her boss, for his
scientifically uncontroversial statement about the relative hazards
of marijuana and alcohol. He is the one who, despite his avowed
commitment to sound science and his own statements to the contrary,
allows the DEA to insist marijuana is so dangerous that it must be
more tightly restricted than cocaine, morphine, oxycodone, and

“It’s very unfortunate that President Obama appears to want to
pass the buck to Congress when it comes to marijuana laws,” says
Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority. “If the president truly
believes what he says about marijuana, he has a moral imperative to
make the law match up with his views and the views of the majority
of the American people without delay. He should initiate the long
overdue rescheduling of marijuana today.”

from Hit & Run http://ift.tt/MFomNq

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