Behind the White House Marijuana Meeting

Behind the White House Marijuana Meeting

April 29, 2016

An interview with DCMJ's Adam Eidinger about the Obama Administration's invitation to meet and what happened behind closed doors. 

In a landmark move, the Obama Administration invited DCMJ, the cannabis legalization group that successfully worked to pass the Initiative 71 ballot measure legalizing marijuana in the District of Columbia, to a meeting in late April to discuss the classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug. The meeting request followed a "Reschedule 420" demonstration, organized by DCMJ, in front of the White House earlier in the month; the demonstration drew more than 1,000 people, according to a DCMJ press release, and featured a 51-foot-inflatable joint that read "Obama, deschedule cannabis now!" 
Cannabis Business Times Editor Noelle Skodzinski talked with Adam Eidinger, DCMJ co-founder (pictured above outside the meeting), to talk about the meeting inside the White House, where Eidinger and DCMJ co-founder Nikolas Schiller met with two people from Office of National Drug Control Policy for 30 minutes. 
Noelle Skodzinski: What were some of the comments and attitudes you encountered from those representatives? 
Adam Eidinger: Positive body language, nods and smiles. They took a lot of notes.
Skodzinski: Obviously being invited for a meeting on the topic is a major step, but did you get any sense of whether rescheduling marijuana was something being seriously considered?
Eidinger: Yes, they noted the DEA and FDA have a forthcoming announcement before July. Nothing more.
Skodzinski: Were there any highlights of the meeting for you?

Eidinger: Being heard is nice. I think getting some nods on practical points [that] I made made me feel good. Getting a chance to say we appreciate some of the reforms thus far out of the Obama Administration such as the Cole memo, and the contract to give cannabis to for PTSD research in vets in April [this year].
Skodzinski: How were things left after the meeting? 
Eidinger: They refused commit to another meeting. We noted to them protests would resume if marijuana reformers were not treated like a constituency very soon. We highlighted Harry Anslinger’s birthday, May 20, as the next protest, but it would be called off at the White House if they simply scheduled a higher-level Meeting.
Skodzinski: Was there any discussion of further steps to be taken by the Obama Administration?
Eidinger: The July announcement only.
Skodzinski: When you talk about rescheduling marijuana, are you mainly pushing for reclassifying it as a Schedule II drug or are you pushing for removal from the schedule? And what was the focus of the discussion?
Eidinger: We want it taken out of the [Controlled Substances Act] all together. It’s not a drug compound, it's a plant. Scheduling, however as II, would not be seen as any improvement in our view and would call for protests as they would have made the decision in vacuum with no input from actual cannabis users.
Skodzinski: Was this your first time in the White House? 
Eidinger: [The meeting] was in a building across the street from the White House, and no, I have been to the actual White House on four occasions never related to cannabis. First time for weed, I guess.

Skodzinski: Were you nervous?

Eidinger: A little, butI feel confident that we are right to push hard on marijuana reform as it is a terrible injustice to so many people [that] it is treated as a criminal issue.
Skodzinski: What can you say about the overall experience?
Eidinger: [I'm] waiting to pass judgement still, as it takes time for ideas to trickle up the White House chain of command, but without continuing dialogue with more marijuana reform voices besides DCMJ, what is the point of this meeting by the White House? To silence us? We need a public process with the White House to legalize federally. It begins with a Bud Summit. We still have yet to have one.
Photos: courtesy DCMJ