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Attorney General “Willing” to Discuss Rescheduling Weed

On the heels of congressional pressure, the nation's top law enforcement officer opened the door to reclassifying marijuana in the federal Controlled Substances Act.

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By Paul Gaita

04/14/14

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The Obama Administration appears to be open to discussing the removal of marijuana from the top of the federal government’s dangerous drug list, though Attorney General Eric Holder has stated that any actions will be in collaboration with Congress.

During a House Appropriations Committee on April 4, Holder stated that the administration is “more than glad to work with Congress if there is a desire to look at and reexamine how the drug is scheduled.” His comments came on the heels of a sternly worded letter from 18 members of Congress urging the president to reconsider the way marijuana is categorized by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Currently, cannabis is listed as a Schedule I drug with a “high potential for abuse,” putting it on the same level as heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. In the letter, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) cited President Obama’s interview with the New Yorker, in which he considered pot less dangerous than alcohol. “Marijuana… remains listed in the federal Controlled Substances Act at Schedule I… a higher listing than cocaine and methamphetamine, Schedule II substances that you gave as example of harder drugs," Obama said. "This makes no sense.”

Any discussion of rescheduling marijuana has incurred a fight from both House Republicans and the DEA itself. The GOP has challenged Holder’s decision to place a lower emphasis on federal marijuana prosecutions while also granting Colorado and Washington the right to legalize pot. They are eying a new bill that aims to decriminalize possession of small amounts of the drug in Washington, D.C.

In March, the House GOP flexed their collective muscle by amending a bill that required President Obama to enforce federal laws as they are written, including those related to marijuana, or face a civil lawsuit by the House of Senate. The DEA – which Holder oversees as head of the Justice Department – has also voiced their opposition to reclassification, with agency chief Michele Leonhart stating that marijuana legalization would only make her agents “fight harder.”

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