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Obama and Rescheduling Marijuana: Last-Minute Executive Magic?

There has been a lot of discussion lately in the trenches of the marijuana reform movement that President Obama might perform some last-minute executive magic toward the end of his term intended to reschedule marijuana.

Some of the movement’s most vocal advocates have even gone as far as to suggest that the recent comments from White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, in which he used the phrase “at this point” when discussing the President’s latest word on national cannabis reform, may imply Obama is on the verge of flipping the kill switch of nationwide pot prohibition.

“The fact that Earnest used the phrase “at this point” to qualify the statement that this president isn’t announcing any specific marijuana moves gave advocates some hope that the administration still might have something in the works before Donald Trump is inaugurated on January 20,” wrote Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority.

What Earnest was referring to when telling reporters, “I don’t think the president at this point was trying to signal any specific policy change,” was an exit interview published last week by Rolling Stone magazine, where Obama said he believed marijuana should be regulated in the same manner as two of the most popular drugs in the world— alcohol and cigarettes.

“I am not somebody who believes that legalization is a panacea,” Obama said. “But I do believe that treating this as a public-health issue, the same way we do with cigarettes or alcohol, is the much smarter way to deal with it.”

Although President Obama has commuted more sentences for non-violent drug offenders than the past several presidents combined, he has maintained for years that the legalization of marijuana in the United States should be an issue handled by Congress — giving no indication whatsoever that he plans to exercise his pot power and push for the herb to be rescheduled under the Controlled Substances Act.

Still, Angell seems to think that it is possible that Obama could have a change of heart in the final days of his administration and lobby for the cannabis plant to be removed from the confines of its Schedule I classification.

“It is also possible that Obama could direct the attorney general to pass cannabis rescheduling proceedings before leaving office,” Angell wrote, adding that this would likely be a fruitless effort, as the Trump Administration would be faced with making the final decision.

President-elect Donald Trump, who has said he supports states rights and medical marijuana, is currently recruiting a cabinet that is, so far, less than progressive when it comes to marijuana reform. As it stands, Trump’s selection for U.S. Attorney General, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, and his pick for secretary of Health and Human Services, U.S. Representative Tom Price, both adamantly opposed to marijuana legalization, would likely snuff out any petition Obama put into motion in the next month aimed at rescheduling marijuana.

So will any major changes come to the grand scheme of marijuana reform before President Obama leaves office? Probably not.
Highway is an essential source for cannabis science, how-to stories and demystifying marijuana. Want to read more? Thy these posts: One Man’s Journey In Pursuit Of The Truth Behind Marijuana Prohibition, Marijuana Myth Busting: Does Holding In Smoke Get You Higher? and A Drag Queen’s Visit To The Cannabis Store.

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