Conservative Legal Critic of President Obama Urges Declassifying of Marijuana


A conservative critic of President Obama’s use of executive authority is urging the President to declassify or reclassify marijuana. Illya Shapiro will soon file another brief in a 26-state challenge to President Obama’s immigration actions, yet he wants him to bypass Congress, who still lags way behind the American voters on the issue, and move cannabis out of the ridiculous Schedule I classification that treats the substance the same as heroin, while cocaine is a Schedule II substance. From

President Obama — without rewriting any laws or going outside of his constitutional authority — can direct the attorney general to start the process of reclassifying marijuana as a Schedule IV or V substance, or declassifying it altogether.

Reclassifying marijuana as a Schedule III substance or lower would have significant benefits for the budding marijuana industry and individual users. For example:

Declassifying marijuana would solve all of these problems.

President Obama has unfortunately been very timid on the issue of rescheduling or de-scheduling cannabis, putting the blame on Congress. As a constitutional scholar himself, the President should know that the executive branch can act on its own. The American people are ready to end prohibition and treat marijuana like alcohol. Democratic  challenger Bernie Sanders has filed a bill to remove cannabis from the list of controlled substances while frontrunner Hillary Clinton has called for moving to Schedule II. President Obama could dramatically add to his legacy of improving the criminal justice system and basing policies upon science if he would use his executive authority to end federal cannabis prohibition.

Reclassifying marijuana as a Schedule III substance or lower would have a significant benefits to the budding marijuana industry and individual users. Marijuana deregulation sits squarely within the control of the executive. The president should use his executive powers to allow for intelligent enforcement for drug policy without eroding the rule of law.
“What the President Should Do” is a new series by the Cato Institute discussing what President Obama can do using executive authority his final year in office to make the U.S. a freer and happier place.
(Featured Photo Credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)


Anthony Johnson

Anthony, a longtime cannabis law reform advocate, was Chief Petitioner and co-author of Measure 91, Oregon's cannabis legalization effort. He served as director of both the New Approach Oregon and Vote Yes on 91 PACs, the political action committees responsible for the state's legalization campaign. As director of New Approach Oregon, Anthony continues to work towards effectively implementing the cannabis legalization system while protecting small business owners and the rights of patients. He sits on the Oregon Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee and fights for sensible rules at the legislature as well as city councils and county commissions across the state. Anthony helps cannabis business comply with Oregon's laws and advises advocates across the country. He also serves as content director of both the International Cannabis Business Conference and the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference, helping share the vision of moving the cannabis industry forward in a way that maintains the focus on keeping people out of prison and protecting patients. He was a member of the Oregon Health Authority Rules Advisory Committee, assisting the drafting of the administrative rules governing Oregon’s state-licensed medical marijuana facilities. He first co-authored and helped pass successful marijuana law reform measures while a law student at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. He passed the Oregon Bar in 2005 and practiced criminal defense for two years before transitioning to working full-time in the political advocacy realm. His blogs on Marijuana Politics are personal in nature and don't speak for or reflect the opinions of any group or organization.