President Barack Obama might be on his way out, but the media’s relentless favoritism remains unchecked.
In a recent interview for Rolling Stone, exiting Commander in Chief Obama told reporters he believes current federal marijuana laws are “untenable.” Adding that, while he has always stood by the notion that substance abuse should always be discouraged, he also believes 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.”
Despite the friendly veneer and the positive response, news outlets have, for the most part, ignored the obvious problem with Obama’s friendly comments on marijuana legalization. Despite his frequent pro-legalization remarks, President Obama’s own administration turned down the opportunity to reschedule the substance in recent months.
At the time, the Drug Enforcement Administration justified its position by claiming that it does not see a medical value in any strains of marijuana and yet, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the assignee in a patent for cannabis that mentions the plant’s benefits “in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.”
After admitting that marijuana is safer than alcohol for the first time last year, his administration dismissed voices pushing him to reschedule the substance on his own. Claiming that “it’s a job for Congress,” Obama refused to take responsibility.
But in a report from the same year, Brookings Institution Senior Fellow John Hudak explained that there are “two ways by which the scheduling of marijuana can be changed: congressional action and administrative action.”
If president Obama is truly serious about allowing the federal government to treat marijuana as alcohol, why hasn’t his HHS Secretary used the agency’s patent to file a petition with the Attorney General? If he had followed the necessary procedures, the AG would then have asked the HHS for a “scientific and medical evaluation and recommendation” along with “any medical and scientific” considerations. Once the requested reports had been submitted to the Attorney General with recommendations urging the AG to have the substance rescheduled, the AG would then be compelled to do so — but only if he “[found] sufficient evidence that a change in scheduling is warranted.”
At that point, Obama’s AG would “[initiate] the first stages of a standard rulemaking process, consistent with the Administrative Procedures Act,” then rescheduling the substance on the federal level.
While the process to have marijuana rescheduled unilaterally is arduous and lengthy — a quality we should appreciate — it’s also doable. Obama surely had all the time in the world to get it done. And yet, he continues to praise legalization as a viable and more moral alternative without actually pushing for federal legalization.
What has he been so afraid of all throughout the years? This is the president who once proudly said “I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone,” after all. Like his predecessors, he cannot say he leans libertarian as far as executive actions are concerned.