When it comes to marijuana legalization, Hillary Clinton still appears to be stuck in the weeds.
Now that the Democratic front-runner has established a firm lead over Vermont senator Bernie Sanders in the delegate tally, it seems increasingly likely that she will be the Democratic nominee come July. If that's the case, Clinton will be under even more scrutiny for her murky financial associations, the emails that she sent through her private server, and her exorbitant speeches. Most importantly, she will be observed and judged over her policy decisions, an inevitability that anyone with a shot at the Oval Office has to contend with.
Last week during Hillary Clinton's appearance on Good Morning America, a voter asked her whether she would vote for legalizing marijuana if such a referendum question appeared on the ballot in her state.
The following was her answer.
"I think I would have to study that more to see how it was phrased because it's been phrased differently in different states. But I will tell you what I will do as president, I've said I want to move marijuana off of Schedule I, which you understand means that you can't do any research about it, you can't do anything. I think that's wrong. We have enough anecdotal evidence… about what marijuana can do for medical conditions, easing pain, and we need to be doing research on it because I am 100 percent in favor of medical uses for marijuana."
While that was a well-crafted answer under the circumstances, with Hillary successfully evading the question the voter asked, what she said had vague implications. She said it is wrong that research cannot be done on marijuana because of the drug being listed in Schedule I, but as a report by FactCheck.org showed, that assumption is not entirely correct.
According to the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, marijuana has been listed as a Schedule I drug, a category that includes drugs with a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. As the Huffington Post mentioned in a report, it puts marijuana in the same class as heroin and LSD, while drugs like cocaine and ecstasy are listed below it.
And while listing marijuana off of Schedule I could mean research on the drug could be conducted more readily, Clinton's assumption that one "can't do anything" at all is far-fetched and false.As Politifact showed in a report, the government doesn't ban scientific research on Schedule I drugs like marijuana. In 2015 alone, the National Institutes of Health invested approximately $11 million into 281 research projects studying cannabinoids, the chemical compounds found in marijuana.
While certain scientists did point out that researching marijuana can be a "complicated process" in the United States, with a string of federal approvals required because it is a Schedule I drug and because of the general unavailability of the drug for research, the complications do not amount to the blanket understanding, as demonstrated by Hillary Clinton during her appearance on GMA, that marijuana research is off-limits because it is a Schedule I drug.
"There are scientists currently studying marijuana, and federal funding supports some of these experiments. Clinton's statement gives the impression that the government bans marijuana research flat-out, and that's not the case," concluded the report by Politifact.
In any case, despite her lack of awareness, Hillary Clinton attempted to emphasize her policy regarding marijuana, and that would be to try and get it off of Schedule I. While it might still be a step ahead for marijuana advocates, it would be nowhere near the goals they have lately been setting themselves -- that of complete legalization.
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