The Obama administration has launched the “we can’t wait” initiative. Since President Obama isn’t going to get much legislation approved by the Republican controlled House or the dysfunctional Senate, his administration is planning to use the powers of the executive branch to launch a series of small scale programs to help improve the lives of Americans and increase jobs.
It’s true that taking significant actions to improve many aspects of the economy will be very difficult for the White House unless they can get a reluctant Congress to approve new laws. But there is at least one area where the administration has all the power it needs to make a huge impact: medical marijuana.
The executive branch already has the power to nationally legalize medical marijuana, and it doesn’t require Congressional action. The Controlled Substance Act gives the executive branch the authority to change the schedule — the classification – of a drug.
The only reason medical marijuana can’t be legally prescribed under federal law is that it is a schedule I drug, meaning it is legally defined as having no “acceptable medical use.” But President Obama can direct the relevant agencies under his control to move marijuana to schedule III or IV. This would make marijuana use legally permissible like other schedule III drugs, such as Vicoden. This would allow doctors to legally prescribe and clinics to legally supply patients with medical marijuana, while still keeping recreational marijuana illegal.
This would be not an extraordinary or unusual executive action for Obama to take. Prescription drugs are often rescheduled by the executive branch based on new evidence. Nor would it be a politically unpopular move. Last year a Pew poll found 73 percent support medical marijuana and an ABC News/Washington Post poll found 81 percent support medical marijuana.
The current federal prohibition against medical marijuana is costing jobs and hurting patients all over the country. The Obama administration’s aggressive enforcement of the federal laws against medical marijuana is preventing some states from opening medical marijuana clinics and forcing clinics to close in other states. This directly costs many jobs in the field and indirectly reduces public sector jobs by reducing local tax revenue.
If Obama is serious about the claim “we can’t wait” for the Congressional Republicans, that policy should apply to medical marijuana; he doesn’t need to wait for Congress. The Obama administration can change the rules to legalize medical marijuana at the federal level and can stop his administration’s aggressive enforcement against it. The only thing really standing in the way of making medical marijuana legal right now is the Obama administration, not Congress.
Since Obama has this very popular, deficit reducing way to create thousands of jobs that doesn’t require Congressional action, my question to him is: Why are you making us wait?