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.”