WASHINGTON -- A member of the Obama administration will meet with representatives of the marijuana advocacy community on Monday in what is being billed as a groundbreaking gathering.
DCMJ, an organization created in 2013 that has advocated for the legalization of marijuana in the District of Columbia, says it was extended a tete-a-tete with a representative of the Obama administration after having been rebuffed two times prior. The meeting, according to Adam Eidinger, co-founder of the group, will be the first time that they have sat down with a political aide -- he declined to name the aide because of the sensitivity of the meeting -- and possibly the first time a national reform group has had such an audience.
“DCMJ appreciates greatly the invitation by the Obama administration to begin an educated and passionate dialogue into the need to remove cannabis from the list of Schedule One drugs,” Eidinger said in a statement. “Thanks to Schedule One of the Controlled Substances Act, Americans, especially people of color, are needlessly incarcerated, and critical medical research into the healing properties of cannabis is placed on hold for no good reason.”
A White House official did not return a request for comment on the meeting. But should it take place as planned, it would signal a growing willingness on the part of the administration to revisit marijuana policy in the closing months of Obama's time in office. In October 2014, press secretary Josh Earnest explicitly stated that the president was not evolving on the issue.
"All I can say is that our policy, when it comes to marijuana, hasn’t changed, and I’m not aware of any policy process that’s underway to change it right now," he said in November of 2015.
In a phone interview on Wednesday, Eidinger said he had asked the White House to allow other reform groups to attend the discussion but the administration declined. Eidinger, who helped spearhead the marijuana legalization efforts in Washington, D.C., said he would use the Monday meeting to encourage the White House to host a summit on cannabis before the president leaves office.
"You don't have to do anything; just absorb [the conversation]," Eidinger said in a phone interview. "They have incredible dialogues with the gay and lesbian community and the civil rights community. But they never actually sit down with the marijuana people."
In addition to the push for a summit, Eidinger said he will encourage the White House to create a federal legal framework to bring cannabis under the interstate commerce clause, and encourage the legalization of personal cultivation.
Nikolas Schiller, a DCMJ co-founder who will be attending the meeting, said the group will also try to convey to the Obama administration why marijuana should be "descheduled" and no longer placed in the same category as deadly drugs under the Controlled Substances Act. Marijuana is currently considered a Schedule I drug, meaning the federal government says it has “no currently accepted medical use.” The list includes drugs such as heroin, LSD and ecstasy.
The Drug Enforcement Administration recently indicated that the agency would decide whether to reschedule marijuana by the middle of 2016. While rescheduling marijuana would not make the drug legal under federal law, it would make it easier to do research on potential benefits and would also reduce penalties for marijuana-related offenses.
“The position of my administration has been that we still have federal laws that classify marijuana as an illegal substance, but we’re not going to spend a lot of resources trying to turn back decisions that have been made at the state level on this issue,” Obama said of marijuana legalization last year. “My suspicion is that you’re gonna see other states start looking at this.”