Inspired by Bill Maher’s on-air cannabis use and the Obama Administration’s continued avoidance of marijuana policy reform, local D.C. activists are scheduling a public protest in the President’s front yard — The White House.
Scheduled for April 2nd, D.C. Cannabis Campaign will be holding court on Pennsylvania Avenue beginning at 2pm for what is being called the Reschedule 420. As 4/20 is typically a day for marijuana celebrations, the April 2nd date is being used to keep the focus on reform and protest.
“We’re calling on the whole country to come,”
says Adam Eidinger of the DCMJ.
“This is a national mobilization. Some of us may end up in jail, and that’s fine. It’s actually necessary at this point.”
Marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I substance and many activists see this as nonsensical, especially amidst a massive opioid epidemic. “We’re living in the dark ages,” says Eidinger.
By smoking cannabis on-air, Bill Maher emphasized the importance of focusing on the end of federal marijuana prohibition. Although medical and recreational cannabis use has been legalized in some states, federal prohibition endangers these programs, especially with changes in the political climate and at the White House. Eidinger, as well as supporters of DCMJ, were inspired by Maher’s actions.
Obama has previously stated that he believes marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol, and admitted to Rep. Steve Cohen that he would consider a legalization bill if confronted with it. Despite promises to reform drug policy in America, his actions have been largely conventional.
“He has the same marijuana policy as George Bush. He’s a hypocrite and we’re calling him out.”
The D.C. Cannabis Campaign may have practice in theatrical forms of civil disobedience, but the same group has had success in decriminalizing minor possession and growing of marijuana in the nation’s capital.
The invitation for the April 2nd event reads:
“Do you think the National Park Service will go after your brownies, gummies, rice crispy treats, or cookies? Doubtful. As we #Reschedule420 this year, we encourage people who do not want to smoke or vape their cannabis to eat it as a form of protest. So in the misquoted words of Marie Antoinette, LET THEM EAT CAKE!”
Learn more about this Reschedule 420 protest a dcmj.org, or RSVP on the group’s Facebook page.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D) has penned an open letter to President Obama, urging him to take action in reversing course on federal marijuana policy.
“As you begin your last year in office,”
the letter reads,
“I hope there is one more step you take to bring about fundamental change — ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition and removing marijuana from the list of Controlled Substances.”
Blumenauer goes on to cite the high rates of incarceration and arrest that stem from marijuana possession and laments that federal authorities’ focus on cannabis has diverted attention from other, mores serious and deadly substances, like cocaine and heroin.
Blumenauer has long been a crusader on the issue of legalized cannabis. He was instrumental in Oregon’s 2014 passage of Measure 91, which ended in-state cannabis prohibition among adults. He has also been active in reaching across the aisle on the issue, even working with Club For Growth head Grover Norquist on the issue.
The Oregon legislator’s passion on the issue shines through in his letter to the president, which ends on an emotional note.
“It is time, Mr. President, for you to take the next logical step, cementing your legacy in history on drug reform and a fairer criminal justice system,”
he says. “Please seize the moment. We can’t wait.
While an increasing number of states consider the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana, federal authorities have continued to enforce strict Congressional laws that, technically speaking, outlaw the cultivation, possession, and use of cannabis in any form and for any reason — anywhere in the United States.
It’s possibly not overly coincidental that Barack Obama recently spoke out in support of medical cannabis when being interviewed by Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN. On April 21, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Michele Leonhart will be “retiring” her role as chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in May. Leonhart, depicted by even mainstream media as a Luddite who played it by the book, refused to ever admit that cannabis might offer medicinal value. Under testimony before Congress, she even refused to recognize that cannabis might be safer than hard drugs like heroin and methamphetamines.
Leonhart’s behavior has been lockstep with marijuana’s categorization under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. Spanning back to the Nixon administration in 1970, this classification has prohibited the research necessary to prove the medical efficacy of cannabis for a wide range of diseases and ailments.
Recently, 20 lawmakers on the House Oversight committee logged a vote of “no confidence” for Ms. Leonhart’s leadership of the DEA. This was in response to the latest scandal involving drug cartel-funded prostitution parties in Columbia in which DEA agents participated. This inevitably led to AG Holder’s announcement.
Medical Research Needed
With no hard medical evidence, agencies like the DEA and the Department of Justice have been able to say “There’s no medical value, Schedule I makes sense.” But, in a nasty Catch 22, maintaining cannabis as a Schedule I drug has prevented the medical research necessary to prove to the government — and voters in both parties — that cannabis offers solid and significant medical benefits.
With Leonhart no longer warming the DEA chief’s seat in a few short weeks, Obama has the opportunity to prove the sincerity of his recent support for “science-based” medical cannabis — and correct his mistake of appointing Leonhart in the first place.
He can appoint a scientist or senior medical researcher, signaling the administration’s approach to all drugs to be one of health policy, not criminal enforcement. If the new chief recognized the need to reclassify cannabis as Schedule II, it would spur countless research studies and expand entrepreneurial efforts in legal states like Colorado, Washington, and Alaska.
Obama told Gupta during his interview with CNN:
“…not only do I think carefully prescribed medical use of marijuana may in fact be appropriate and we should follow the science as opposed to ideology on this issue, but I’m also on record as saying that the more we treat some of these issues related to drug abuse from a public health model and not just from an incarceration model, the better off we’re going to be.”
There is already an effort in Congress to reclassify cannabis to Schedule II that’s being spearheaded by Senators Cory Booker, Rand Paul, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Dean Heller called the CARERS (Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States) Act.
CARERS is a bipartisan bill that, if it became law, would allow states to legalize medical marijuana without federal interference. It would also allow Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend cannabis to veterans suffering from brain injury, neurological disorders, and PTSD. In addition, the bill would legalize high CBD strains of marijuana, making them viable medical treatments on a national level (especially for treatment-resistant epilepsy in both children and adults).
Is Obama Sincere?
If Obama wants to validate his own words in support of medical marijuana, he will appoint a new DEA chief that supports rescheduling and, by extension, robust research into the medical efficacy of cannabis. In addition, he should openly support the CARERS Act, possibly giving the bill the momentum it needs to become law and begin the inevitable recognition, legalization, and regulation of medical marijuana on the part of the federal government.
For a late second term president who might be looking for a positive legacy — one that doesn’t involve terrorism, war, corporate bailouts, and a lagging economy — pushing forth the first federal-level medical marijuana legislation could go a long way in terms of public opinion (all of which indicates that the majority of citizens support medical cannabis).