COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The growing acceptance of legalized marijuana may have the federal government reconsidering its stance on categorizing the drug as dangerous and illegal.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he's willing to discuss with Congress the possibility of removing marijuana from the federal list of most-dangerous drugs -- a list which includes cocaine and heroin.
Holder's comments come after a series of Congressional hearings on marijuana, and with pending legislation that would, among other things, downgrade the drug as a controlled substance.
The continuing conflict with marijuana is based on the fact that it is legal in several states but remains illegal at the federal level.
Bob Wiley is a marijuana advocate who belongs to Sensible Colorado and the Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council. He said he's surprised, but glad, to hear of Holder's comment.
"Hopefully, it's sincere on his part, and he'll work with Congress and the Drug Enforcement Administration," Wiley said.
Wiley said Holder or President Obama each have the authority to downgrade marijuana, but he doubts either will. Several members of Congress have made a similar request.
Holder said he wants to rely on the "great degree of expertise that exists in Congress" before making a decision.
Downgrading or rescheduling marijuana also has medical implications that have a major effect on the military.
"We've tried to have research for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder," Wiley said. "That research has been blocked by our federal government. They wouldn't allow the research to continue if it mentioned marijuana."
Rescheduling marijuana also would bring tax and banking benefits to marijuana-related businesses. Accounting and tax filings would become more normal, and businesses would have greater access to banks.
Sherri Dodd of Colorado Springs said she supports taking marijuana off the federal list.
"I think marijuana's probably safer than alcohol or tobacco," she said. "If anything, if you're not going to take marijuana off the list, I think they should put alcohol on it, because it's dangerous."
However, Steve Luera of Colorado Springs, a former marijuana user, believes marijuana should remain on the list.
"In my personal situation, I think it led me down some dark alleys that maybe were good learning experiences and might have been fun, but I don't know if they really improved my life that much," he said.