On Thursday, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced it won’t reschedule marijuana from a Scheduled I controlled substance, meaning that in the eyes of the feds it’ll continue to be regarded as dangerous drug with no medical value, akin to heroin and bath salts.
Many observers were surprised by the announcement, especially in light of President Obama’s measured backing of medical marijuana last year. But the good news for supporters of marijuana reform is the strong support Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton continues to express for rescheduling marijuana.
In a statement published yesterday in the Cannabist, Maya Harris, a senior policy adviser to the Clinton campaign, applauded the DEA’s concurrent move to loosen restrictions on growing marijuana for research — and indicated Clinton will go even further to accomplish what Obama has failed to so far.
“We applaud the steps taken today by the Obama Administration to remove research barriers that have significantly limited the scientific study of marijuana,” Harris said. “Marijuana is already being used for medical purposes in states across the country, and it has the potential for even further medical use. As Hillary Clinton has said throughout this campaign, we should make it easier to study marijuana so that we can better understand its potential benefits, as well as its side effects.”
“As president, Hillary will build on the important steps announced today by rescheduling marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II substance,” she continued. “She will also ensure Colorado, and other states that have enacted marijuana laws, can continue to serve as laboratories of democracy.”
Clinton’s pledge to reschedule marijuana isn’t new — she was on the record as supporting it even before the DEA made its announcement on Thursday. But Marijuana Majority founder and chairman Tom Angell said the timing is nonetheless significant.
“I do think [Harris’ statement] is significant — for her campaign to reiterate their support for rescheduling just after the Obama administration denied rescheduling,” Angell told ThinkProgress. “It’s interesting, because I have a lot of bets going with some of my colleagues on whether or not [Obama] would reschedule. I was wrong — I had predicted we would at least get Schedule II — but Clinton has already pledged to make it happen.”
Angell said he’s surprised the DEA would leave marijuana rescheduling to the next administration instead of taking action now. But since the president appoints the executive branch personnel tasked with making decisions about where marijuana fits into the controlled substances list, Angell remains encouraged it’ll happen sooner than later.
“From the DEA’s perspective, it would be better for them to go ahead and do it now and make it look like their own brilliant idea rather than be forced into it later,” he said. “But based on what Clinton has said on the campaign trail and in the statement, it seems like she will make this a higher priority than this president has.”
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has also expressed support for medical marijuana and for allowing states to make their own decisions about legalization. But last year, Trump characterized Colorado’s marijuana laws as “bad, and I feel strongly about that… They’ve got a lot of problems going on right now in Colorado, some big problems.” In short, as is the case with many issues, Trump’s views on marijuana are hard to pin down.