“What is and isn’t a Schedule I narcotic is a job for Congress,” Obama said when Tapper asked if he was “considering not making marijuana a Schedule I narcotic.”
“I think it’s the DEA that decides that,” Tapper interjected.
“It’s not something by ourselves that we start changing. No, there are laws undergirding those determinations,” the president responded.
According to the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, Schedule I drugs are described as having a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S., and lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.
“Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence,” the DEA’s website said.
The following are considered Schedule I drugs: heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote.
When asked if he would support reclassifying marijuana, Obama compared it to alcohol, saying that it is “subject to abuse” and should be treated as a “public health problem.”
He referenced a Jan. 27 interview he gave to The New Yorker, saying, “But as I said in the interview, my concern is when you end up having very heavy criminal penalties for individual users that have been applied unevenly, and in some cases with a racial disparity, I think that is a problem.”
The president said in addition to dealing with the “racial disparity” in sentencing for marijuana possession, the focus should shift to making sure kids don’t get into the habit of smoking cigarettes or using drugs or alcohol.
“Over the long-term, what I believe is if we can deal with some of the criminal penalty issues, then we can really tackle what is a problem, not just for marijuana, but also alcohol, also cigarettes, also harder drugs, and that is try to make sure that our kids don’t get, don’t get into these habits in the first place,” he said.
“And the incarceration model that we’ve taken, particularly around marijuana does not seem to have produced the kinds of results that we’ve said,” Obama said.
The president also warned that if marijuana is legalized, “big corporations” could begin marketing pot to the public, which would result in higher levels of drug abuse.
“But I do offer a cautionary note – and I said this in the interview – those who think legalization is a panacea, I think they have to ask themselves some tough questions too, because if we start having a situation where big corporations with a lot of resources and distribution of marketing arms are suddenly going out there peddling marijuana, then the levels of abuse that may take place are going to be higher,” he added.