Obama: Decriminalization, Rescheduling Progress Possible

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President Barack Obama said in a recent interview that Congress may be forced to take political action on marijuana in the near future, if further reforms are passed at the state level.

“We actually may be able to make some progress on the decriminalization side,” Obama told Vice News. (In the video interview, marijuana comes up at 14:23.) “At a certain point, if enough states end up decriminalizing, then Congress may then reschedule marijuana.”

Marijuana is currently listed as a Schedule I narcotic by the Drug Enforcement Administration, along with substances such as heroin and LSD that have no accepted medicinal use. A bill introduced in the U.S. Senate recently would move marijuana to Schedule II, where it would still be tightly regulated but deemed to have medicinal value under federal law.

The president seemed to indicate that he was open to further reforms, but that he wasn’t going to make rescheduling a priority, even though some cannabis activists say he has the power to take unilateral action if he wants to.

“The position of my administration has been that we still have federal laws that classify marijuana as an illegal substance,” Obama said during a YouTube forum in January. “But we’re not going to spend a lot of resources trying to turn back decisions that have been made at the state level on this issue.”

Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority, commented in a statement that Obama “can reschedule marijuana without any further Congressional action needed. He should do that.”