Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has previously suggested he would end prohibition of marijuana. should he be elected. At a rally in Puerto Rico on Monday, Sanders answered an audience’s question: “Would you legalize marijuana?”
He responded in the affirmative: “Si. You see, my Spanish is good enough to know that word.”
Sanders has been clear on his position regarding the Controlled Substances Act, which ranks cannabis in the same category as heroin. He reiterated this to the crowd in Puerto Rico.
“We’ve got marijuana and heroin together, that’s pretty crazy to my mind,” he said.
His views on the failings of the War on Drugs have also been voiced in October 2015.
In the United States we have 2.2 million people in jail today, more than any other country. And we’re spending about $80 billion a year to lock people up. We need major changes in our criminal justice system – including changes in drug laws.”
Sanders has focused on the failures of the War on Drugs as a reason to legalize cannabis.
Presidential candidates running for office in 2016 have been more vocal about cannabis legalization than ever before, regardless of their position.
Hillary Clinton has stated she would consider rescheduling marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II substance, but seems to think no research has been done on the benefits of cannabis, despite plenty of evidence indicating otherwise. She may be unaware that significant research is being conducted in other countries.
“…the problem with medical marijuana is there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence about how well it works for certain conditions, but we haven’t done any research. Why? Because it’s considered what’s called a Schedule I drug and you can’t even do research in it.”
While Clinton can be labeled as a weak ally in the legalization movement, Republican candidate Donald Trump has more or less supported medical marijuana.
“I know people that have serious problems… and… it really, really does help them,”
he said to Bill O’Reilly.
Sanders is an example of the growing support for cannabis legalization that has nothing to do with personal use and more to do with public safety, public health and the mass incarceration of U.S. citizens for minor drug crimes.
Presumed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton appeared on late night show Jimmy Kimmel Live last night where she was grilled by the host about her stance on cannabis legalization.
Kimmel casually asked Clinton why her approach on legalization isn’t quite as liberal as Bernie Sanders’ approach. Here was Clinton’s response in which she tells Kimmel that if made president she would let states continue to regulate themselves and would reschedule marijuana:
Democratic Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, just announced that she is now in favor of loosening the federal restrictions on marijuana. Clinton softened her stance during a speech in South Carolina, where she expressed support for reclassifying cannabis as a Schedule II substance in order to encourage more research on the plant’s medicinal value and efficacy.
Clinton now believes that cannabis should be lowered one tier from it’s current Schedule I status, where it is lumped among heroin and methaqualone (Quaalude), to Schedule II. The Schedule I classification, deemed the “most dangerous,” is supposed to be reserved for substances labeled as having the highest potential for abuse and dependence with no recognized medical value in the United States. There are many barriers which make it extremely difficult for researchers to gain access to Schedule I substances for studies.
Considering that nearly half of the United States have legalized the use and sale of cannabis for medicinal purposes, the majority of Americans find it difficult to rationalize cannabis remaining a Schedule I substance, so Clinton had to soften her stance on cannabis law reform in order to remain competitive.
Schedule II substances, like oxycodone (OxyContin), cocaine, and Adderall, are described as being dangerous with less potential for abuse and dependance than Schedule I substances, and they can be prescribed by a physician. There are fewer restrictions preventing scientists from being able to research Schedule II substances, so a reclassification would potentially open doors for more cannabis research.
“What I do want is for us to support research into medical marijuana because a lot more states have passed medical marijuana than have legalized marijuana, so we’ve got two different experiences or even experiments going on right now,”
Clinton stated after being asked about marijuana prohibition.
“And the problem with medical marijuana is there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence about how well it works for certain conditions, but we haven’t done any research. Why? Because it’s considered what’s called a Schedule I drug and you can’t even do research in it.”
This is a new position for Clinton, who in the past has said she supported further medical marijuana research but has never actively stated she believed cannabis should be rescheduled. Clinton also stated that reforming marijuana laws would positively affect the criminal justice system, keeping low-level drug offenders out of prison.
While Clinton was willing to take a more progressive stance on medical marijuana research, her stance on legalization remains the same. She wants to see how legalization works in states like Colorado, Washington and Oregon before forming an opinion on federal legalization.
Unlike Clinton, candidate Bernie Sanders has made it clear that he believes it is time to end cannabis prohibition on the federal level, and rescheduling cannabis to level II will not be enough. Sanders recently introduced a bill to the United States Senate which would strike cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, thereby unscheduling it.
“The rescheduling of marijuana is a step in the right direction, but only going down to Schedule II is mostly a symbolic move,”
pointed out Tom Angell, veteran activist and founder of The Marijuana Majority.
“It may make research slightly easier, but on its own wouldn’t do anything to protect seriously ill people who are using marijuana in accordance with state laws from being harassed by the DEA. Only changing the federal criminal statutes can effectively do that.”
The results of a recent marijuana legalization survey of Americans by the Pew Research Center was released on Tuesday, as millions were busily preparing tax returns. The numbers mostly reinforce existing studies by a variety of organizations that, while nuanced, reflect that the majority of Americans are in favor of legal marijuana, both for medical and recreational use.
As one might expect, more Americans support medical than recreational legalization. Support of marijuana legalization of any kind is significantly higher among younger people than those who are middle aged or the elderly. Overall, 53 percent of Americans favor full legalization, down a single point from last year’s Pew study. 41 percent of responses said their reason for supporting legalization was marijuana’s value as a medicine, versus the 36 percent who said their main justification was the fact that pot is no more dangerous than alcohol or cigarettes.
More Voters Favor Legalization
The report also revealed that the limited success of the marijuana legalization movement, illustrated by four states and the District of Columbia having legalized recreational cannabis and 24 states allowing some form of legal medical use, is convincing more and more voters that legalization is a good thing.
As more Americans learn the reality of medical cannabis and people become educated, they become much more supportive of legalization efforts and ballot initiatives (the classic domino effect). It could also be argued that greater numbers of legal, open cannabis consumers also serve to de-stigmatize the herb, showing those around them that it is actually a medicine and doesn’t carry negative side effects, like lower IQ or mental illness.
Said Tom Angell, Chairman of Marijuana Majority, a pro-legalization group:
“The more that people learn about marijuana and look at the benefits of legalization, the more likely they are to support reform.”
Among those 18-34, 68 percent support legalization. This is 16 points higher than the second most supportive age group of 35-50 year olds. The Pew survey revealed that millennials also supportive marijuana legalization across party lines, meaning a 20-year-old Republican might be in favor of legalization, while a 58-year-old Democrat might oppose it. However, among Republicans as a group — regardless of age — only 39 percent support legalization. Although this sounds like a low number, it is the highest marijuana approval rating among Republicans since Pew began the survey in 1969.
Opponents Lack Logic
Opponents of legalization point toward their belief that it is both dangerous and addictive. Somewhat tellingly, and an excellent example of circular logic, 19 percent of those who oppose legalization say it is because marijuana is illegal.
However, even 54 percent of Republicans said that the federal government should not interfere with states that have legalized cannabis — along with 58 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Independents (an argument leading many political pundits to suggest that Hillary Clinton would be wise to support full legalization). Among outright opponents of legalization, even 38 percent said that the federal government should allow states to legalize and not interfere.