U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is shifting her decades-old stance in favor of federal marijuana prohibition, she said in an interview with McClatchy on Tuesday.
The California senator has consistently declined to endorse state ballot initiatives to reform marijuana laws—including the state’s historic medical cannabis proposition in 1996 and its 2016 recreational marijuana legalization bid. She has also voted against efforts in Congress to shield medical marijuana patients and providers from federal interference.
But in a surprise about face, Feinstein said that she now backs efforts to prevent federal intervention in California’s legal marijuana program.
“Federal law enforcement agents should not arrest Californians who are adhering to California law,” she told McClatchy, saying that her views shifted after meeting constituents who have benefited from medical cannabis.
To some, the timing of Feinstein’s reversal is suspect. The moderate Democrat, who has represented the state in the Senate since 1992, is facing reelection competition from a progressive challenger, Kevin de Leon, whose views on the issue are decidedly friendlier to cannabis reform. De Leon, a California state senator, condemned the Trump administration’s decision to rescind federal protections for states that passed marijuana laws in January, for example.
Feinstein’s shift on marijuana legalization “is not surprising,” Jonathan Underland, a spokesperson for de Leon, told Marijuana Moment. “It is good to see that Senator Feinstein is catching up to what voters knew 22 years ago, but values should transcend political quests to hold on to power.”
The move also comes shortly after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), himself a longtime proponent of the war on drugs, announced plans to introduce legislation to remove marijuana from the list of federally banned substances.
The recent paradigm shift in marijuana politics has taken various forms, including a bill introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) to legalize marijuana at the federal level, which has been co-sponsored by prominent lawmakers such as Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
De Leon pledged to join Sanders as a co-sponsor of the legislation if he won his Senate bid.
“[Booker’s] bill recognizes that legal cannabis is the law of the land in California and many other states,” he wrote. “More importantly, it corrects deep-rooted racial disparities in our criminal justice system. I would join [Sanders] as a cosponsor in a heartbeat.
See the original published on Marijuana Moment below:
Feinstein’s Marijuana Reversal Raises Eyebrows
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 pro-marijuana legalization campaign in Oregon, Yes on 91, has incorporated a creative strategy into their mission to encourage registered voters to exercise their rights by using a clone-able Facebook app.
How does it work?
First the app matches contacts from your Facebook account to the list of registered voters in the state of Oregon. Next, the app will show you which of your Facebook friends are registered to vote, but who have not yet submitted a ballot. Lastly, it will give you the option to send a private Facebook message to each friend, reminding him or her cast their vote.
Once registered voters have cast a ballot, the registered voter website marks the person as having voted, so this app will only match people who have not yet voted. Do not fret, it does not show who or what a person voted for. This app can be added to Facebook by going to DidTheyVote.org. People can find out whether or not their friends have voted yet, and then politely or overwhelmingly remind that person to exercise his or her rights as an American.
One fan of the app, Sarah Duff, a volunteer with the campaign supporting Measure 91, told the Daily Journal,
“This kind of app is great because it helps me do all the things I would do anyway, which is remind my friends to vote.”
The organization anticipates this reminder tool to appeal especially to young voters, and are excited to see the results next week.
photo credit: Getty