Holder wrong, Obama could pull pot out of legal limbo

Colorado’s Amendment 64 made recreational pot legal in the state last year but marijuana remains an illegal on the federal level. That’s a problem for pot businesses here and it’s a discrepancy Congress is not likely to address any time soon. Capitol Hill Republicans have been fighting hard over the last month to undercut an attempt by Washington DC voters to loosen pot laws there. So what about the White House? Can’t Obama step in to pull the burgeoning pot industry from national legal limbo?

Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday that he didn’t think the White House had the authority to unilaterally rework pot’s legal status. Vox looked into the matter and says Holder is wrong. The executive branch could do it, only it would be a labored, bureaucratically daunting undertaking.

Currently, marijuana is a Schedule 1 controlled substance, the highest, scariest label the government can pin to a drug. Pot is in the Schedule 1 category alongside heroin, LSD, and ecstasy — not to say these drugs are equally deadly, but that they’re classified as lacking medical value and potential for abuse. Federal restrictions limit the amount of resources allotted to the study of THC, effectively limiting the ability of researchers to prove the medical efficacy of marijuana.

Rescheduling and reclassifying marijuana at a federal level has potentially far-reaching effects. A lower drug-schedule classification would loosen funds for government-sanctioned marijuana research and would pare back the red tape that now tangles up growers and shop owners working to manage their money.