In the biggest Capitol Hill show of support yet for legalizing marijuana, 18 House members asked President Barack Obama Wednesday, Feb. 12 to reclassify the drug, removing it from a list of banned substances deemed to have no medical value.
The letter, distributed by Oregon Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer, argued that including marijuana in the Schedule 1 list of banned drugs, along with heroin and LSD, disregards the laws of 20 states that allow pot to be used for medical purposes.
It comes after Obama last month said that he doesn't believe that marijuana is any more dangerous than alcohol.
In the letter, the members wrote: "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. This is true. Marijuana, however, remains listed in the federal Controlled Substances Act at Schedule I, the strictest classification, along with heroin and LSD. This is a higher listing than cocaine and methamphetamine, Schedule II substances that you gave as examples of harder drugs. This makes no sense."
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Blumenauer said cocaine and methamphetamine are more dangerous than marijuana.
"Everyone knows this," he said. "Tobacco, which is a legal substance, kills an estimated 443,000 people a year, while there are no recorded examples of marijuana overdoses. The administration needs recognize the relative dangers of these drugs if it wants to restore its credibility. The first step is to reschedule marijuana, which the administration can do unilaterally."
Obama told CNN last month that reclassifying marijuana is a job for Congress, not the executive branch.
Signing the letter with Blumenauer are House members from California, Colorado, Arizona, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Virgina, Texas, Illinois and Vermont.
One interesting omission: No signers from Washington state, one of two states that has already legalized marijuana for recreational use.
In a related development, the pro-legalization group Marijuana Policy Project said that it has already collected 99,500 signatures urging that marijuana be reclassified.
The group stepped up the pressure on Obama, too.
"When President Obama took office, he promised his administration's policy decisions would be based on science and the scientific process, not politics or ideology," said Dan Riffle, the group's director of federal policies. "Every day marijuana remains a Schedule I drug, his administration is breaking that promise."
- Video provided by Blumenauer