In February 18 members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama urging him to reclassify cannabis. Comparing the schedule classifications, they pointed out that as it stands now, cannabis is listed as more dangerous than methamphetamines and cocaine, but the President himself stated he “[doesn’t] think it is more dangerous than alcohol,” a fully legal substance.
This call from Congress may have convinced the feds they were willing and able to move forward on reclassifying cannabis. So, for Holder to put the ball back in the court of Congress didn’t settle well for some representatives. As a result, this week two representatives have addressed Holder’s statement, one in Congress and the other directed at Holder himself.
During a House Judiciary Committee Holder was grilled by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn) as to why the feds have not used executive action to reclassify cannabis as they had on other issues.
Cohen stated he believes Congress will not act because they are like “tortoises” and wouldn’t stick their necks out. He asked Holder why he didn’t use Title 21, Chapter 13 to request a study by the Secretary of Scientific and Medical Evaluation to look into the classification of cannabis and change it, telling Holder “it has medical benefit and to be Schedule I says it has no medical benefit, well that’s just fallacious,” and that a wrongly placed Schedule I classification “breeds contempt for our laws.”
Holder’s response was that the feds have acted properly with their limited resources and was content with the actions they have taken. When Cohen pressed him on the lunacy of cannabis’ classification, Holder stated, “what is obvious to one perhaps is not obvious to others”.
This roundabout approach to answering Cohen’s questioning proves that the feds will need a much harder shove if they are going to take the next step forward. On that same day, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore) also called out the Obama Administration’s lack of action for reclassification, adding to the much needed shove.
Blumenauer believes the time for examination has ended and now it is time to act. He pointed out how meth, a lower classification than cannabis, has ravished communities and caused many acts of violence, yet cannabis has not. He also explained how Congress has already acted with bipartisan bills to tax cannabis, to introduce industrialized hemp, and protect state laws from federal interference.
And just as Cohen stated, Blumenauer blamed the dysfunction of Congress for the lack of passing these bills as of yet. He urged Holder to at least “move marijuana off the Schedule I or Schedule II of controlled substances. This is something they can do on their own initiative.”
With pressure from state governments, the public and members of Congress, the feds may act on Holder’s announcement soon. With the option put forward by Rep. Cohen of requesting a study to re-review cannabis, the feds have a easy and cost effective way to decide if cannabis should be rescheduled without waiting for Congress to drag their feet toward change.
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