President Obama may sign an executive order before leaving office that will change marijuana’s listing under federal laws. During his reign, President Nixon signed an order in 1970 that listed Marijuana as a Schedule 1 Drug. Drugs in this class have no accepted medical use and are considered to have a high potential for abuse. The federal laws have remained the same since President Nixon signed the order but state governments have had the liberty to create their own laws on marijuana use. Nearly half of the states in the US have legalized marijuana for medical use with others allowing it for recreational purposes. Recent marijuana reforms happened during the November 2016 election. Most of the states allow qualified patients to buy marijuana from registered and licensed dispensaries for medical use.
Marijuana is currently listed as a Schedule 1 Drug among other substances such as heroin, peyote, ecstasy, methaqualone, and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). Gary Johnson who ran for the presidency in 2016 under a Libertarian ticket speculates that President Obama may sign an order to list marijuana as a schedule II drug. The President may sign the order before leaving office in January 20, 2017. The order will reverse President Nixon’s order and pave way for further reforms on medical marijuana. The order will not affect the power of the states to establish contrary laws. State governments can restrict marijuana cultivation, use, and distribution in their jurisdiction even if federal laws allow its use.
Johnson argues that President Obama should have signed such an order earlier in his term and predicts that he might do it as the last thing on his way out. Schedule II drugs are defined as substances, chemicals, or drugs with a high abuse potential. Their use may lead to physical dependence or severe psychological consequences. Hence, the drugs are dangerous and require a prescription from a certified physician. Some of the drugs listed in this class include cocaine, methadone, Vicodin, oxycodone, methamphetamine, and hydromorphone among others.
One of the reasons why Gary Johnson predicts that the Obama administration will take this move is the recent decision to pardon 79 felons who were convicted of drug offenses. The President commuted all their offenses. President Obama has exceeded the number of felons that ten of his predecessors pardoned in their tenure. The recent commutations increased the number of pardons by the Obama administration to more than 1,000. Another indication that the president may sign the order is the Drug Enforcement Administration’s response to states that have legalized medical marijuana. The Administration has not taken any action against states that have legalized cannabis even for recreational use.
During Obama’s administration, the DEA adopted a policy to ignore marijuana offenses. Gary Johnson proposes that the president should remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances completely. Such a move will allow states to make laws that regulate and legalize marijuana based on their views and those of the voters. Removing the federal control over marijuana will improve access to medical marijuana because new dispensaries will be established across the country. Consequently, certified patients will order marijuana online or directly from dispensaries easily.
During the presidential campaign, the democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton proposed an order to change marijuana’s classification from Schedule 1 to Schedule II. Speculations are that the new president-elect, Donald Trump may not reclassify the drug. Trump picked Jeff Sessions as the Attorney General. Sessions does not believe that the war on drugs is over and may not agree to reclassify marijuana. The proponents of reclassifying marijuana argue that the policy to control marijuana use is among the failed policies. Jailing users for buying marijuana without any victimization or coercion is unjustified.
President Obama may pardon marijuana users just as he has pardoned so many black and white drug offenders. The president has also changed the nation’s position on marijuana use. President Obama observed that alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana and that the Justice Department has not stopped any state from legalizing marijuana in its jurisdiction. The President gave the views earlier in August 2016 while removing barriers to marijuana research. The Obama administration introduced a new policy that would increase the supply of cannabis to researchers significantly. The University of Mississippi has been the only institution allowed to grow marijuana for research. The new policy would increase the number of institutions that are allowed to grow marijuana.
Expanding the research on medical uses of marijuana will help scientists improve the effectiveness of the drug in treating the qualified medical conditions. Many states have legalized medical marijuana for diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and Crohn’s diseases among other conditions. However, there is limited research to support the claim that marijuana relieves the conditions. President Obama’s decision to support marijuana research will change this position. The Obama administration has indirectly supported the legalizing of medical marijuana by failing to stop states that legalize it and supporting research on its medical uses. The decisions and the high number of commutations for drug offenders point to the possibility that the president will officially reclassify marijuana before leaving office.