In a historical move during a speech in Virginia, Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, announced that he believes it is time to end the prohibition of cannabis at the federal level.
The Vermont senator and self-proclaimed “democratic socialist” shared his views with students from the acclaimed George Mason University and other GOP contenders. Sanders supports removing marijuana from it’s current Schedule I classification under the Controlled Substances Act. Those listed as Schedule I, a classification which means they have a high potential for abuse and no medicinal value, are considered to be the most dangerous drugs outlawed by the US government. Heroin and bath salts are among those listed as Schedule I substances.
“Right now marijuana is listed by the federal government as a schedule-one drug, meaning that it is considered to be as dangerous as heroin. That is absurd,”
Sanders said during the speech.
“In my view, the time is long overdue for us to remove the federal prohibition on marijuana. In my view, states should have the right to regulate marijuana the same way that state and local laws now govern the sale of alcohol and tobacco.”
While Sanders did not endorse full legalization at the federal level he did point out that he believes that states should have the right to choose how to regulate cannabis like alcohol and tobacco. Sanders also mentioned that cannabis consumers should not face federal prosecution, and that legally operating cannabis businesses should have full access to banking services and tax deductions just like any other business. While he supports policy reform, Sanders believes that those caught unlawfully trafficking and distributing should still face federal prosecution.
No other presidential candidate has called for cannabis to be rescheduled, leaving Sanders as the only candidate who’s views are aligned with 58 percent of the American people who support full legalization, according to the most recent Gallup poll.
“If Sen. Sanders follows through on these comments with legislation, it will be the first time in history that a bill will be introduced in the U.S. Senate to end federal marijuana prohibition,”
After the 2015 State of the Union Address on Thursday, President Obama agreed to do three interviews with Youtube channel creators Hank Green, Bethany Mota and GloZell Green who all have millions of followers on their Youtube channels. The questions asked during these interviews were influenced by their followers. Topics covered included ObamaCare, North Korea, social media, Cuba, education and of course cannabis.
Hank Green was responsible for posing the questions about marijuana. Green asked President Obama what he thinks the United States must do to “shift out of the gray area weirdness” of state versus Federal legalization. In response to this question, President Obama predicts that more states will experiment with legalization, and showed concern with excessive incarceration and racial disparity in marijuana arrests.
President Obama elaborated,
“Colorado and Washington through state referendum are experimenting with legal marijuana. The position that my administration has been is we still have federal laws that classify marijuana as an illegal substance but we are not going to spend a lot of resources trying to turn back decisions that have been made on the state level on this issue. My suspicion is you’re going to see other states start looking at this.”
Watch the video clip below where President Obama and Hank Green discuss marijuana legalization in the United States, and the rest of the President’s response is written out below the video clip.
President Obama continued,
“What I am doing at the federal level is asking my Department of Justice just to examine generally how we are treating nonviolent drug offenders because I think you’re right. What we have done is instead of focusing on treatment, the same way we focused say with tobacco or drunk driving or other problems where we treat it as a public health problem, we’ve treated this exclusively as a criminal problem. And I think that it’s been counterproductive and it’s been devastating in a lot of minority communities. It presents the possibility at least of unequal application of the law and that has to be changed. Now the good news is that we’re starting to get some interest from Republicans as well as Democrats in reforming the criminal justice system. We’ve been able to initiate some changes administratively and last year you had the first time in 40 years where the crime rate and the incarceration rate went down at the same time. I hope we can continue with those trends because they’re just a smarter way of dealing with these issues.”
It appears as though President Obama’s prediction may be correct because full legalization bills have been filed for the 2015 legislative session in states like Arizona and New York, while states like Indiana, Florida and Virginia will hear bills legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes only.
As more and more Americans are learning the truth behind marijuana prohibition, attitudes are changing and its only a matter of time before policies are also changed. You can also check out this infographic for predictions of which states will be next to legalize marijuana.
In a meeting earlier this month, hundreds of physicians of the Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS) held a meeting to enact new healthcare policies and resolutions concerning eight different topics of public healthcare. One of those resolutions concerned medical marijuana, and a push for the plant to be reclassified on the federal level to ultimately open doors for research. The MMS trade group has publicly stated before that cannabis should be reclassified, and this time their collective voice will be louder.
Currently, cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. This means that marijuana is seen as having no medical use in the United States. However, nearly half of the United States currently have some form of medical marijuana legislation, so this scheduling is contradictory. Marijuana being listed as a Schedule I drug ultimately blocks researchers from studying the plant and its uses.
Now that Massachusetts also has legalized medical marijuana, physicians want to protect themselves and their patients by conducting studies, and learning as much as possible about the plant. Therefor each individual member of the Massachusetts Medical Society agreed during the interim meeting to write lawmakers advocating for an end to marijuana prohibition. Rick Gulla, society spokesperson told NPR, “The research is fairly thin and it’s a puzzlement for physicians in terms of whether or not they should recommend it.”