In 1971, former U.S. President Richard Nixon dramatically increased the presence of federal drug control agencies, ultimately leading to what Nixon declared, the “War on Drugs.” During this time, Nixon temporarily placed cannabis in Schedule I, the most restrictive category of drugs, as he waited for cannabis to be reviewed by a commission he appointed. One year later, the commission unanimously recommended decriminalising the possession of cannabis and distribution for personal use. Unfortunately, this didn’t stop Nixon from ignoring the commission’s recommendations, and thus, cannabis remained in Schedule I.
Forty years later, cannabis activists and members of the medical cannabis community have looked to President Obama to change these harsh drug policies. Now, for the first time since the Nixon administration, Obama has the chance to make things right.
The DEA vs. Obama
Despite Obama’s past (and frequent) use of cannabis, along with his stance on cannabis being safer than alcohol, he has done very little to bring about a change in drug policy. Now, the DEA has announced that it’s bringing back a petition from 2011, which requested changing cannabis to Schedule II.
Yet, the most frustrating part of this whole dragged out process is that the DEA has the power to schedule drugs, and unfortunately has a long track record of stalling when it comes to the business of rescheduling. Take the petition from 2011 for example, which took until just recently to be brought up again.
Even though the DEA has the power to schedule drugs, President Obama is still top boss and certainly has the capability to tell the DEA to grant the petition. When Obama is asked about rescheduling, however, he usually responds by explaining that it’s up to congress to make that decision.
But there’s no doubt the change that would come about from removing cannabis from Schedule I would be a positive one. In fact, moving cannabis to Schedule III, or removing if from the list of controlled substances (like alcohol and tobacco) would have a number of effects.
Positive effects of rescheduling cannabis
A lot of good could come from rescheduling cannabis. For example, if cannabis is rescheduled, it will pave the way for more research and will make it easier to conduct such research.
The biggest obstacle, at least historically, to doing research on marijuana to prove its medical benefit is that it’s in Schedule I. So you had that Catch-22, where marijuana is a Schedule I drug because there’s no evidence, and there’s no evidence because marijuana is a Schedule I drug. – Dan Riffle, director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project
Good point. If cannabis is kept in Schedule I, how will we ever be able to educate people on the benefits of medical cannabis and teach people that it is indeed an effective medicine? It would certainly make things more difficult, that’s for sure.
Another example for why rescheduling cannabis would be effective is that it would protect federal employees who use cannabis from an old Reagan Administration executive order that defines illegal drugs as Schedule I or II substances. Nice.
Cannabis should most certainly not be in the same category as heroin or cocaine., yet it is. The substances that are under Schedule I and II are classified as substances with no medicinal value and with a high potential for abuse. As long as cannabis remains in Schedule I, the road to legalization will be a long one.
So come on, Obama. These laws are so outdated and have destroyed so many people’s lives and their families lives as well, and at this point, the government’s reasoning for not rescheduling is simply inexcusable. If Obama can find it in his heart, in his remaining months as president, to step up to the plate and decide on rescheduling cannabis, it would be a historic victory for the entire cannabis community and all those who were affected by the War on Drugs.
Do you think cannabis should be rescheduled? Do you think Obama should step up and make a change? Let us know on social media or in the comments below.