Saturday afternoon, a large group of marijuana activists and advocates will consume cannabis en masse outside the White House in hopes of spurring federal reform. But Tom Angell, founder of Marijuana Majority, argues lighting up in front of the first family’s abode isn’t a good look for the movement.
“Smoking in a public park where families and children are vacationing is not going to be the way to encourage the president or member of Congress to do what we need them to do,” Angell told ThinkProgress. “It also sends a message to those voters from all around the country who are visiting D.C. that legalizing means huge clouds of smoke in public parks.”
Saturday’s demonstration is organized by the D.C. Cannabis Campaign (DCMJ) and motivated by the Obama administration’s unwillingness to reschedule cannabis from a Schedule I controlled substance — a classification reserved for dangerous drugs with no medical use that also includes heroin and bath salts — into Schedule III, or descheduled altogether.
Angell supports DCMJ’s efforts, but argues that momentum for reform is building at the ballot box, mitigating the need for controversial demonstrations like the one set to take place outside the White House.
“I recognize that there is an important role for civil disobedience at certain times, but you typically employ those tactics when you’ve exhausted other ways to try and make change,” Angell said. “The fact is right now the political process is working very well for us on this issue. We’re scoring major victories at the ballot box and at state legislatures, though of course change isn’t happening as quickly as we want.”
Twenty states could potentially legalize some form of cannabis use in the November’s election, SFGate reports. Gallup polling indicates 58 percent of Americans support cannabis legalization for adults. In a recent Huffington Post op-ed, Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access, characterized 2015 as “a record year for medical cannabis policy” and noted that a measure prohibiting the Department of Justice from interfering with state medical cannabis laws received bipartisan support before it was signed into law by President Obama.
That isn’t enough for DCMJ chair Adam Eidinger. “We’re not taking no for an answer from Obama now… We’ve waited eight years, and still no reform on the federal level,” Eidinger told ThinkProgress last month.
Angell acknowledges sharing Eidinger’s frustrations on the issue of marijuana’s Schedule I status. Obama has expressed measured support for medical cannabis, and the president could direct Attorney General Loretta Lynch to act on rescheduling. But Obama has consistently signaled he wants Congress to take the initiative on the issue, and despite voting to keep the Justice Department out of state medical cannabis programs, lawmakers haven’t so far indicated willingness to do that.
“Frankly, I’ve been disappointed with regard to the president on the topic,” Angell said. “This is a mainstream issue supported by a majority of the American people.”