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Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), initiated the letter in January, following the president’s interview with the The New Yorker where he stated, quite emphatically, that he didn’t believe marijuana was anymore dangerous than alcohol. The letter’s final signatories came through on Wednesday, and the story was leaked online shortly thereafter.
The president went on to say:
“As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”
In response, the members of Congress wrote:
“You said that you don’t believe marijuana is any more dangerous than alcohol: a fully legalized substance, and believe it to be less dangerous ‘in terms of its impact on the individual consumer.’ This is true. Marijuana, however, remains listed in the federal Controlled Substances Act at Schedule I . This is a higher listing than cocaine and methamphetamine, Schedule II substances that you gave as examples of harder drugs. This makes no sense.”
Marijuana is presently classified as a Schedule I substance, which means the government sees it as having the same dangers as heroin, ecstasy and LSD. Those Congress members seek to change that by asking that President Obama move the drug into a legal class so it can be taxed, or, better yet, do away with its classification entirely.
The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 allows Obama to ”remove any drug or other substance from the schedules if [it] finds that the drug or other substance does not meet the requirements for inclusion in any schedule.”
Curiously, Obama seemed puzzled by the law when asked about it by CNN’s Jake Tapper earlier this year:
“What is and isn’t a Schedule I narcotic is a job for Congress,” he said. “It’s not something by ourselves that we start changing. No, there are laws under – undergirding those determinations.”
The congressmembers, however, vehemently disagree. They posit that marijuana’s classification is ruining lives. In a statement, Blumenauer added that Obama would and should improve the credibility of drug policing by taking immediate action. Blumenauer wrote in a Wednesday statement:
“The Administration needs to recognize the relative dangers of these drugs if it wants to restore its credibility. The first step is to reschedule marijuana, which the Administration can do unilaterally. We can’t let this arbitrary and incorrect bureaucratic classification ruin any more lives.”
His letter says:
“We believe the current system wastes resources and destroys lives, in turn damaging families and communities. Taking action on this issue is long overdue.”
No surprisingly, only one Republican put his name to the letter, California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher. Along with Blumenaeur, its other signatories were Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Sam Farr (D-CA), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Mike Honda (D-CA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Jim Moran (D-VA), Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), Jared Polis (D-CO), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and Peter Welch (D-VT).
The letter, which which can be found HERE, was obtained by U.S. News and World Report.
Here’s the video of Blumenauer speaking to Congress on the issue: