Attorney General Eric Holder revealed that the Obama administration is willing to work with Congress to reschedule marijuana. Cannabis is currently a Schedule I narcotic under the Controlled Substances Act – along with heroin and LSD. Schedule I is reserved for drugs that have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical value.
“We’d be more than glad to work with Congress if there is a desire to look at and reexamine how the drug is scheduled,” Holder said during a House Appropriations Committee hearing on Friday.
“It is something that ultimately Congress would have to change, and I think that our administration would be glad to work with Congress if such a proposal were made.”
What Holder didn’t mention is that the attorney general has the power to reschedule or remove a drug entirely from the schedules without Congressional support. However, it appears the administration is unwilling to reclassify pot without broad consensus.
The Drug Enforcement Administration, headed by Michele Leonhart, would likely resist any attempt at rescheduling. Leonhart recently admitted that she and her agents are inspired to “fight harder” in the face of marijuana legalization efforts. Nonetheless, despite DEA pressure, the Obama Administration has previously decided not to interfere with recreational legalization laws in Colorado and Washington.
In addition to easing restrictions on research, rescheduling would allow for tax deductions for businesses in the burgeoning cannabis industry. And while it wouldn’t legalize pot, it would bring marijuana’s federal classification somewhat closer to what is generally accepted as reality.
A recent attempt to reschedule marijuana was officially rejected by the DEA in 2011. That decision was upheld on appeal in early 2013. The court’s ruling highlighted a head spinning catch-22; there is a lack of “valid” scientific research to prove pot’s safety and efficacy so it should be a Schedule I drug, which almost entirely prevents “valid” scientific research that could prove pot's safety and efficacy.
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