By Ben Adlin
Really putting the lame in “lame duck,” the Obama administration on Friday suggested the president has no plans to push for cannabis reform during his remaining time in office.
As far as President Obama is concerned, any effort to loosen federal restrictions on cannabis would need to come through Congress, White House press secretary John Earnest told reporters.
Obama expressed a similar position a day earlier to Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., one of a number of federal lawmakers pushing for legal reform. Cohen related the exchange to Chris Ingraham at the Washington Post:
Obama’s answer on the rescheduling was “disappointing,” Cohen said in an interview. “On marijuana, he gave the same answer as when I asked him seven years ago: ‘If you get me a bill, and get it on my desk, I’ll probably sign it,’ ” Cohen said (emphasis his).
After Friday’s briefing, Earnest sounded almost dismissive when he responded to a reporter’s question about rescheduling:
“There are some in the Democratic party who have urged the president to take this kind of action, and the president’s response was, if you feel so strongly about it and you believe there’s so much public support for what it is that you’re advocating, then why don’t you pass legislation about it and we’ll see what happens.’”
The president’s past offers to work with Congress on rescheduling have always been coy. I’m on board, he seemed to say, but don’t expect me to stick my neck out.
Obama, remember, was the presidential candidate who told us he “inhaled frequently. That was the point.” Early on he seemed willing, even eager, to challenge the kinds of stereotypes and misinformation that have perpetuated the war on drugs. But since taking office he’s sent mixed messages on where he stands.
The White House website says the president “steadfastly opposes legalization,” but he told the New Yorker‘s David Remnick, “I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.” The Justice Department under his watch has zigged and zagged. Prosecutors first announced a hands-off approach in states where cannabis was legal. Then they shuttered hundreds of dispensaries in California. Not exactly stewardship of a cause.
With one hand Obama giveth, commuting the sentences of 46 drug offenders. With the other he taketh away.
Unhappy with Obama’s weak stance cannabis? Expect more of the same from Hillary Clinton.
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