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“It’s not something by ourselves that we start changing,” the president told the network. “No, there are laws undergirding those determinations.”

But Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, said that’s wrong. He said it’s up to federal agencies to decide how to classify drugs, and said Mr. Obama could begin that process today.

“It’s very unfortunate that President Obama appears to want to pass the buck to Congress when it comes to marijuana laws, especially when his State of the Union speech this week focused on actions he can take to move America forward without having to wait for the legislative branch to get its act together,” Mr. Angell said.