Delegates of the Democratic National Committee voted down a proposal to include the federal legalization of cannabis in the party’s 2020 platform on Monday. Platform committee delegate Dennis Obduskey of Colorado had introduced an amendment to include marijuana legalization in the platform, but the proposal was rejected by the committee with a vote of 105 to 60.
Several delegates spoke in favor of the legalization platform plank before the vote, including Stacey Walker, a county supervisor from Iowa, who referenced the words of civil rights activist and former Georgia congressman Rep. John Lewis in his comments.
“I’m imploring all of you to approach this with an open mind and heart. Do something big here,” Walker said to members of the platform committee via a video conference. “Take one small but meaningful step toward changing the course of history. If my Black life matters to you, you will consider this amendment. We want to get in good trouble today, and I urge you to do the right thing and support it.”
Draft Platform Supports Marijuana Decriminalization
Instead, the draft party platform, which is slated to be voted on by the close to 4,000 members of the full DNC prior to next month’s convention, calls for the decriminalization of cannabis.
This is the approach favored by likely Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
“Democrats will decriminalize marijuana use and reschedule it through executive action on the federal level,” the draft reads. “We will support legalization of medical marijuana, and believe states should be able to make their own decisions about recreational use.”
The platform also called for reform of the nation’s broader drug policy, including a transition away from viewing drug abuse and addiction as a law enforcement issue.
“It is past time to end the failed “War on Drugs,” which has imprisoned millions of Americans— disproportionately people of color—and hasn’t been effective in reducing drug use. Democrats support policies that will reorient our public safety approach toward prevention, and away from over-policing—including by making evidence-based investments in jobs, housing, education, and the arts that will make our nation fairer, freer, and more prosperous,” reads the proposed platform.
“Substance use disorders are diseases, not crimes,” it continues. “Democrats believe no one should be in prison solely because they use drugs.”
In addition to supporting the right of states to legalize cannabis, the proposed platform calls for an end to federal enforcement of marijuana laws in those states that have done so and for the removal of federal marijuana convictions from defendants’ records.
“The Justice Department should not launch federal prosecutions of conduct that is legal at the state level. All past criminal convictions for cannabis use should be automatically expunged,” the party maintains in the draft. “And rather than involving the criminal justice system, Democrats support increased use of drug courts, harm reduction interventions, and treatment diversion programs for those struggling with substance use disorders.”
A Step Backward
Erik Altieri, the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said in a statement that the Democratic Party platform’s cannabis reforms do not go far enough.
“It is impractical at best and disingenuous at worst for the Biden campaign to move ahead with these policy proposals,” Alteri said. “Rescheduling of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act would continue to make the federal government the primary dictators of cannabis policy, and would do little if anything to address its criminal status under federal law.”
Colorado delegate Obduskey said the approved plank was a step backward from the party’s 2016 platform, which called for “providing a reasoned pathway for future legalization.”