Over the weekend, Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton somehow managed to control her usual snarky expressions in South Carolina, where she came out of the pot closet, so to speak, by suggesting that marijuana should be downgraded from it current position as a Schedule I to a Schedule II under the Controlled Substances Act.
“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,” Clinton said. “So we’ve got two different experiences or even experiments going on right now. 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 on it.
“If we’re going to have a lot of states setting up marijuana dispensaries so that people who have some kind of medical need are getting marijuana, we need know what’s the quality of it, how much should you take, what should you avoid if you’re taking other medications,” she added.
It seems a bit convenient, yet consistent with her modus operadi that Clinton would choose to slightly upgrade her position on marijuana legalization, presenting a more definitive course of action, just days after her primary Democratic adversary, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, introduced a bill to the U.S. Senate calling for and end to pot prohibition across the nation. After all, it was just last month, during the first Democratic debate in Nevada, when Clinton flat-out said “No,” she would not support a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana, but that “we need to do a lot more research so that we know exactly how” medical marijuana can help patients in the United States.
There was some speculation earlier this year that Clinton was on the verge of getting behind the idea of facilitating medical marijuana research. Bloomberg reported in September that following a campaign fundraiser in Florida, Attorney John Morgan, the mastermind working to bring medical marijuana to the state in 2016, was “very satisfied” about Clinton’s position on marijuana legalization. Even Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, one of the strongest voices in Washington D.C. on the issue of pot reform, made the comment that Clinton “would be at least as good, if not better” than President Obama when it comes to marijuana legalization.
While it is encouraging to hear Clinton offer some level of support for changing the marijuana laws in this country, we are left unknowing just how much of her spiel we can expect to translate into actual results if she happens to take control of the White House in 2017. Interestingly, as Jacob Sullum, senior editor at Reason magazine, points out in his latest column, Hillary Clinton is not a co-sponsor for the CARERS Act, “Despite her avowed support for expanding medical marijuana research.” This is a pretty good indicator that the Democratic presidential hopeful is not quite as serious about medical marijuana as she wants the public to believe. Therefore, it stands to reason that if Clinton is not currently willing to stand behind an actual proposal that seeks to reclassify marijuana a Schedule II, making it a substance with accepted medicinal value in the U.S., then it is highly unlikely that she would swing her executive fist towards amending the Controlled Substances Act upon becoming the next president.
On Sunday, Sanders said Clinton’s concept of “classifying marijuana in the same category as cocaine ignores the major issue,” because it does nothing to remove this substance, which has been made legal in some fashion in over half the states, from federal controls.
“If we are serious about criminal justice reform and preventing many thousands of lives from being impacted because of criminal convictions for marijuana possession, we must remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act and allow states the right to go forward, if they choose, to legalize marijuana without federal legal impediments,” Sanders said.
It is important to remember that while rescheduling marijuana a Schedule II would facilitate more research, it would also give the pharmaceutical companies the green light to swoop in and establish a national pot market. Only a complete “De-scheduling” of the herb, an action that can only be achieved through Congress, would put an end to the black market and stop police from kicking down the doors of the average citizen.