Congressman Raul Grijalva, a southern Arizona Democrat, has joined 17 other congressmen in asking that President Obama to help reclassify marijuana in the federal drug "scheduling."
Marijuana is a Schedule I substance at the federal level, which the Justice Department describes as the "most dangerous" drugs that have "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse," alongside LSD and heroin.
The Schedule I drugs generally are associated with higher penalties. For example, trafficking between 50 and 99 kilograms of pot calls for a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. A first-time offender caught with any amount of a Schedule III drug -- which includes certain prescription painkillers, ketamine, and anabolic steroids, among other things -- is supposed to serve a maximum of 10 years.
Although Obama himself can't just reorganize the drug scheduling himself, the 18 lawmakers -- mostly Democrats -- have asked Obama to instruct Attorney General Eric Holder to use his authority to reclassify marijuana.
Here's what the letter says, in part:
You said that you don't believe marijuana is any more dangerous than alcohol: a fully legalized substance, and believe it to be less dangerous "in terms of its impact on the individual consumer." This is true. Marijuana, however, remains listed in the federal Controlled Substances Act at Schedule I, the strictest classification, along with heroin and LSD. This is a higher listing than cocaine and methamphetamine, Schedule II substances that you gave as examples of harder drugs. This makes no sense.
Classifying marijuana as Schedule I at the federal level perpetuates an unjust and irrational system. Schedule I recognizes no medical use, disregarding both medical evidence and the laws of nearly half of the estates that have legalized medical marijuana. A Schedule I or II classification also means that marijuana businesses in states where adult or medical use are legal cannot deduct business expenses from their taxes or take tax credits due to Section 280E of the federal tax code.
We request that you instruct Attorney General Holder to delist or classify marijuana in a more appropriate way, at the very least eliminating from Schedule I or II. Furthermore, one would hope that that (sic) your Administration officials publicly reflect your views on this matter. Statements such as the one from DEA chief of operations James L. Capra that the legalization of marijuana at the state level is "reckless and irresponsible" serve no purposes other than to inflame passions and misinform the public.
This letter from Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer and his colleagues comes after Obama told the New Yorker he doesn't believe marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol.
Interestingly, Obama has said rescheduling marijuana is a job for Congress, although these lawmakers seem to be under the impression that the AG has that power.
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The congressmen also asked in their letter that other people in the Obama Administration "publicly reflect [his] views on the matter," in response to the DEA operations chief James Capra, recently saying that state-level marijuana legalization is "reckless and irresponsible" and that it "scares us."
The entire letter from the 18 congressmen can be found here.