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 CATO.org:
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:
- The Internal Revenue Code prohibits the deduction of business expenses that relate to Schedule I or Schedule II trafficking;
- The Gun Control Act of 1968 prevents the sale of ammunition and firearms to the unlawful users of “any controlled substance”;
- A conviction for possessing a controlled substance can bar students from getting loans;
- And the rules are even stricter for public housing.
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)