In a signed letter issued on Wednesday, 18 members of Congress have called on President Barack Obama to reclassify marijuana, a drug currently listed in the same category as heroin and LSD.
Authored by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), the letter comes after President Obama’s comments to the New Yorker in January, in which he stated his belief that marijuana is not any more dangerous than drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes.
Under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, the Drug Enforcement Administration classifies marijuana as a “Schedule I” substance. This is the harshest classification available for illegal substances, placing cannabis in a stricter category than drugs like cocaine. Schedule I substances are believed to have "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse."
"You said that you don't believe marijuana is any more dangerous than alcohol: a fully legalized substance, and believe it to be less dangerous 'in terms of its impact on the individual consumer,'” the letter reads. "This is true. Marijuana, however, remains listed in the federal Controlled Substances Act at Schedule I ... This is a higher listing than cocaine and methamphetamine, Schedule II substances that you gave as examples of harder drugs. This makes no sense."
Pointing to the high number of people incarcerated for possessing marijuana, the congressman urged Obama have Attorney General Eric Holder either delist the drug or remove it from Schedule I or II classification.
"We believe the current system wastes resources and destroys lives, in turn damaging families and communities," the letter states. "Taking action on this issue is long overdue."
As noted by US News and World Report, the 1970 law permits the attorney general to "remove any drug or other substance from the schedules if he finds that the drug or other substance does not meet the requirements for inclusion in any schedule."
Speaking with CNN’s Jake Tapper, however, Obama seemed to rule out unilateral action by the administration.
"What is and isn't a Schedule I narcotic is a job for Congress," Obama said during the interview. "It's not something by ourselves that we start changing. No, there are laws under – undergirding those determinations."
This explanation did not satisfy Blumenauer, who issued a separate statement on Wednesday saying the White House could act on its own if it wants.
"The Administration needs recognize the relative dangers of these drugs if it wants to restore its credibility," Blumenauer told the Huffington Post. "The first step is to reschedule marijuana, which the Administration can do unilaterally. We can't let this arbitrary and incorrect bureaucratic classification ruin any more lives."
So far, Colorado and Washington are the only two states to have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, though numerous others have voted to allow it for medical purposes. As RT reported last month, multiple states will be taking up ballot initiatives on pot legalization during elections in 2014 and 2016.