Marijuana remains a divisive topic in American politics, but on Saturday, the Democratic platform drafting committee approved an amendment that advocates both removing marijuana from Schedule 1 status and “a reasoned pathway to future legalization.”
This is, as the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel notes, “a tense and unexpected victory for supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders.”
Throughout the platform drafting process, deep divides between Sanders and Clinton supporters have been laid bare, exposing the ideological differences that often remain beneath the surface of partisan politics. And rarely has a platform drafting committee been observed with such scrutiny, as fascinated observers watch the back and forth between the persistent progressives and incrementalists of the party’s leadership.
Some think it is rather bizarre, however, that the Democratic Party is so divided over marijuana. Indeed, many were surprised when Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, came out aggressively against a medical marijuana initiative that received broad support among Democrats.
The surprise dimmed a bit when it was discovered that her opposition to medical marijuana came as she “courted alcohol PACs as one of the largest sources of her campaign funding,” according to Zaid Jilani.
But as states across the nation continue to move forward with medical and recreational marijuana, and as some research suggests that medical marijuana use lowers the use of prescription drugs, pressure has been placed on major political parties to take action on the issue. Due to soaring rates of opiate addiction across the country, the pressure has only continued to intensify.
Democrats, it seems, are beginning to respond.
“Because of conflicting laws concerning marijuana, both on the federal and state levels, we encourage the federal government to remove marijuana from its list as a Class 1 Federal Controlled Substance, providing a reasoned pathway for future legalization,” the platform amendment reads.
As the movement was approved, the Washington Post reports that there “celebration in the back of the room.”
During his campaign for the presidency, Bernie Sanders has consistently supported the decriminalization of marijuana possession.
“The time is long overdue for us to take marijuana off the federal government’s list of outlawed drugs,” Sanders has said. “In my view, states should have the right to regulate marijuana the same way that state and local laws now govern sales of alcohol and tobacco.”
Sanders has also noted that his state, Vermont, “voted to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, and I support that.”
“What’s interesting about Sanders’s proposal,” writes The Atlantic’s David Graham, “is that it is at once radical and at the same time would simply ratify much of what’s already happening across the United States, where states have already begun liberalizing laws without waiting for Washington’s consent, and voter support for legalization is now well past the 50-percent mark.”
Hillary Clinton, for her part, has expressed skepticism about marijuana legalization. She has said that she reports removing marijuana from the Schedule 1 category so that more research can be done on its effects.
“I do support the use of medical marijuana,” Clinton has said. “And I think even there we need to do a lot more research so that we know exactly how we’re going to help people for whom medical marijuana provides relief.”
Slowly, it seems, the Democratic Party is aligning with much of the public on the issue of marijuana legalization.
“Attitudes about marijuana have undergone a rapid shift in public opinion, paralleled by few other trends in the U.S.,” notes Seth Motel of the Pew Research Center. Today, Motel adds, most Americans support legalizing it.
“A slim majority (53%) of Americans say the drug should be made legal, compared with 44% who want it to be illegal. Opinions have changed drastically since 1969, when Gallup first asked the question and found that just 12% favored legalizing marijuana use.”
[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]