BuzzFeed News

Reporting To You


Obama Says Changing Legality Of Marijuana "A Job For Congress," But That's Misleading

The president says marijuana is a public health problem and changing the DEA "schedule" — or the government's legal classification of the drug — is a job for Congress. But actually, the attorney general can change a drug's schedule.

Last updated on January 31, 2014, at 11:50 a.m. ET

Posted on January 31, 2014, at 11:50 a.m. ET

In an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper that aired Friday, President Obama said changing the marijuana's "schedule" was a "job for Congress."

The Drug Enforcement Administration currently listed five schedules of drugs. A drug's schedule is its rank of "acceptable medical use and the drug’s abuse or dependency potential." The higher the ranking, the more dangerous the drug, the DEA says.


The ranking of drugs was set in 1970 by the Controlled Substances Act signed into law by President Richard Nixon. Here's where marijuana is listed.

Controlled Substance Act

In recent interview with the New Yorker the president said of marijuana, “I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.” He has previously said marijuana should be treated as a public health problem.


Obama's comments are misleading, however, as the administration has the power through the attorney general to change a drug's ranking through the Controlled Substances Act.

Obama has made the reference to Congress before, most recently in an interview with Rolling Stone.

When asked by the Huffington Post in 2012 if Obama's Rolling Stone comments about changing marijuana's schedule only being possible through Congress were misleading, Attorney General Eric Holder replied, "That's right."