By Stephen C. Webster on February 13, 2014

Eighteen members of Congress wrote to President Obama on Wednesday (PDF) urging him to take executive action to change the classification of marijuana under the DEA’s schedule of controlled substances.

“Lives and resources are wasted on enforcing harsh, unrealistic, and unfair marijuana laws,” the letter explains. “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.”

To help remedy this situation, the members urge the President to take executive action and direct Attorney General Eric Holder to remove marijuana from the DEA’s Schedule I list, supposedly reserved for the most dangerous, addictive and disorienting drugs like LSD and heroin. The letter asks that Obama eliminate marijuana from Schedule I and Schedule II, both of which would criminalize the substance.

Members of the House who signed the bill are nearly all Democrats save but for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), one of a small group of Republicans who want the federal government to respect state marijuana laws.

Other members include Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Sam Farr (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Mike Honda (D-AZ), and Jared Polis (D-CO), among others -- all known for advocating for drug reform. Cohen also introduced a bill on Wednesday that would strike a law that prohibits the Office of National Drug Control Policy to study the potential effects of marijuana legalization.

Obama recently said that he believes marijuana to be less harmful than alcohol “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer.” He added in a follow-up interview that the Schedule I classification of the drug is a matter for Congress to determine, calling the criminal penalty issues surrounding marijuana “a problem.”

The Controlled Substances Act explicitly allows the president to request that his attorney general delist a substance from the schedule if it “does not meet the requirements for inclusion.”

To that effect, the members asked that Obama instruct Holder “to delist or classify marijuana in a more appropriate way, at the very least eliminating it from Schedule I or II.” They also asked that Obama’s top officials begin reflecting his views in public, calling out DEA chief of operations James L. Capra for recently saying that state-level legalization initiatives are “reckless and irresponsible.’” Such a statement, they wrote, only serves to “inflame passions and misinform the public.”

“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,” Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, said in an advisory. “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.”

Blumenauer Rescheduling Letter

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Photo: "Cannabis leaf," via Shutterstock.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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