I remember when Obama was elected in 2008. From a purely marijuana activist standpoint, I had a lot of hope that he would do big things when it came to marijuana policy in America. I remember thinking that anything was possible while he was in office, including the end to federal marijuana prohibition altogether. One thing that I thought for sure was going to happen while Obama was in office was changing marijuana’s status as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, or at the very least, a very strong push for it by Obama.
But instead Obama has always pushed the task of changing marijuana’s classification status onto Congress. He hasn’t touched it, and his administration has even gone out of its way to testify against such a move. Obama is in his last year in office, and after seven years of largely punting on marijuana reform, Obama plans on doing more of the same in year 8. Per a recent article in The Washington Post:
At a briefing Friday, White House press secretary John Earnest said any progress on marijuana reform would need to come through Congress. President Obama had signaled his position a day earlier at the House Democratic retreat in Baltimore, saying marijuana reform is not on his list of end-of-term priorities, according to Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.).
Obama was specifically asked about rescheduling marijuana by Representative Cohen, but Representative Cohen said that the answer he received was ‘disappointing.’ The article quoted the always hardworking activist Tom Angell from the Marijuana Majority:
Obama’s approach to the issue has long frustrated activists. “This isn’t the first time President Obama has unnecessarily tried to pass the buck on marijuana rescheduling to Congress,” Tom Angell of the pro-marijuana group Marijuana Majority said in an email. “It’s unacceptable and frankly embarrassing for a president who has so nonchalantly acknowledged his own marijuana use to allow the federal government to continue classifying cannabis in such an inappropriate category.”
Rescheduling marijuana via an Executive action is not easy. There’s a ton of bureaucracy involved, so I can somewhat understand if the President wasn’t able to achieve the end goal without involving Congress. However, to not even try, and to act for two terms like it’s not a priority and that it’s Congress’ job to push for such reform, is very disheartening. A federal judge once referred to the Obama Administration’s banking guidance for the marijuana industry as a ‘nothingburger.’ I think that term largely applies to Obama’s entire tenure as President when it comes to marijuana policy.