I was hanging out with some awesome people last night (shout out to the Uncle Spliffy Crew and the Duff and Johnson freedom fighting duo!), and the question was posed ‘will Obama re-schedule or de-schedule marijuana before he leaves office?’ Presidential candidate Gary Johnson recently challenged Obama to reschedule marijuana and the comments were covered extensively in mainstream media. I was asked my opinion on the matter, and as sometimes tends to be the case, I figured I’d post my thoughts on the blog.
As I told the group, I don’t personally think that it will happen. I think there are multiple reasons for that, the biggest reason being that when Obama was asked about any changes to federal marijuana policy at the beginning of 2016, he said that it isn’t on his agenda. Also, Obama has had plenty of opportunity to initiate re-scheduling or de-scheduling since he has been in office, and he has consistently punted the issue to Congress. Yes, Congress can re-schedule or de-schedule marijuana, but so too can the Obama Administration if it desired to.
To be fair, re-scheduling or de-scheduling marijuana is not an easy task when it is done via the administrative route versus Congress. It’s much more complicated than people think. For the absolute best breakdown I’ve ever seen on what it would take for Obama to make such a move, check out the video below produced by the Brookings Institution featuring Brookings Fellow John Hudak (starts at 6:10):
As you can see, it’s not like Obama can just pull out a ball point pen, sign a form, and consider it done. It would take a fairly epic effort on his part to achieve the goal of re-scheduling or de-scheduling marijuana. Congress could do it with a lot less steps. So I wouldn’t fault Obama if he tried and wasn’t able to get all the way through the bureaucratic labyrinth. But what I do fault Obama on is not trying at all. I don’t expect Obama to make it to the finish line on changing marijuana’s federal status, but I would absolutely like to see him go from ‘Congress needs to do it’ to ‘I personally want Congress to do it, and I’m giving them the directive to do it or I’ll try to take matters into my own hands.’ I don’t think that’s too much to ask at this point, considering a recent poll found that a record 61% of Americans support ending marijuana prohibition.
So in summary, I don’t expect anything out of the Obama Administrative in this area. Obama has stated as much, and his lack of action on this issue since 2008 I think speaks for itself. But, I will be the first to say that I would LOVE to be wrong on this, and would gladly welcome any movement on re-scheduling or de-scheduling. Bernie Sanders has a bill in Congress right now that would completely de-schedule marijuana, and in the process end federal marijuana prohibition. I would love to see Obama lend his support to the bill. What do readers think? Do you think that it will happen before Obama leaves office? I look forward to seeing what people have to say.