Today 18 members of the United States Congress sent a letter to President Barack Obama calling on him to remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. This issue has drawn a lot of press lately and there has been a lot of debate about what such a move would mean. On one end you have people like me that want it removed because it's sound science. On the other end of the spectrum you have people like Kevin Sabet who think it will have zero impact, yet still want to keep things how they are.
The language of the letter is as follows:
We are encouraged by your recent comments in your interview with David Remnick in the January 27, 2014 issue of the New Yorker, about the shifting public opinion on the legalization of marijuana. We request that you take action to help alleviate the harms to society caused by the federal Schedule I classification of marijuana.
Lives and resources are wasted on enforcing harsh, unrealistic, and unfair marijuana laws. Nearly two-thirds of a million people every year are arrested for marijuana possession. We spend billions every year enforcing marijuana laws, which disproportionately impact minorities. According to the ACLU, black Americans are nearly four times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite comparable marijuana usage rates.
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 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 th 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.
Thank you for your continued thoughtfulness about this important issue. We believe the current system wastes resources and destroys lives, in turn damaging families and communities. Taking action on this issue is long overdue.
Below is the reaction from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition:
WASHINGTON, DC-Citing high numbers of arrests, billions of dollars wasted, disproportionate effects on black Americans and the relative safety of marijuana, a group of eighteen Congress members today called on President Obama to "delist or classify marijuana in a more appropriate way, at the very least eliminating it from Schedule I or II." The move comes in light of Obama's recent comments to The New Yorker that marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol and that it was important to allow legalization efforts in Colorado and Washington to proceed.
Currently, marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drug, a classification for drugs with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Because of this classification, most medical research on marijuana is prohibited, it cannot be prescribed in accordance with federal law and it creates a host of tax and business regulation problems for state-legal marijuana businesses trying to comply in good faith with all relevant laws.
"No drug should be listed as Schedule I, which limits potentially life-saving research into both benefits and dangers of a substance and guarantees a violent, illegal market for the product," said Law Enforcement Against Prohibition executive director Major Neill Franklin (Ret.) "This is even more true of marijuana right now, when after four decades of failure, states are doing their best to find something that works and federal regulations keep interfering with their ability to do so."