The Obama Administration today signaled that it was willing to work with Congress to move marijuana out of the federal outlaw-drug category known as Schedule I.
Under that classification, shared with heroin, ecstasy and other narcotics, marijuana is deemed as having no legitimate use whatsoever, even for medical research or patient treatment. Lower schedule status, such as II or III, gives drugs some limited medical legitimacy.
Today U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, President Obama's top cop, addressed a House Appropriations Committee budget hearing:
We'd be more than glad to work with Congress if there is a desire to look at and reexamine how the drug is scheduled, as I said there is a great degree of expertise that exists in Congress. It is something that ultimately Congress would have to change, and I think that our administration would be glad to work with Congress if such a proposal were made.
The move would not necessarily mean huge changes in a state like California, where you can tell a doctor you have back pain and have a bag of green a half-hour later.
And keep in mind that the House is Republican-controlled.
While some conservatives, including Southern California's Dana Rohrabacher, are pro-decriminalization, it would be hard for us to believe Republicans would support some medical legitimacy for pot in a Tea Party world.
In any case, the Drug Policy Alliance explains the impact of rescheduling marijuana this way:
Re-categorizing marijuana would not legalize the drug under federal law, but it could ease restrictions on research into marijuana's medical benefits and allow marijuana businesses to take tax deductions.
Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the alliance, sounded cautions about expecting too much out of any possible rescheduling of the drug:
Rescheduling would be a modest step in the right direction, but would do nothing to stop marijuana arrests or prohibition-related violence. Now that the majority of the American public supports taxing and regulating marijuana, this debate about re-scheduling is a bit antiquated and not a real solution to the failures of marijuana prohibition.
Strangely, DEA chief Michele Leonhart has been making bizarre statements about weed this week.
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First she said that voters in Colorado and Washington were essentially coerced into voting to legalize recreational pot. She also said that Mexican drug cartels were infiltrating those states to prepare to sell marijuana at prices cheaper than one could find at a legal retailer.
Then she stated that people should be concerned about legalization because dogs were getting stoned and sick in Colorado as a result of that state's new recreational-pot sales.
One has to wonder, after the President said he believes alcohol is more dangerous that weed, how long Leonhart is going to last in the Obama Administration.