The issue of marijuana legalization has been a big topic in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Over the weekend, the Democratic National Committee voted to support the forward motion of federal marijuana legalization and asked that the federal government reclassify or declassify marijuana from the Schedule I classification it currently has. Schedule I drugs are federally illegal without exception. They are considered to be the highest risk drugs, like heroin and cocaine, and are said to have no medicinal benefit. This directly contradicts the 25 states that have legalized medical marijuana and is in conflict with Oregon, Colorado, Washington, Alaska, D.C., and the 8 other states that will potentially vote to legalize recreational marijuana this November.
The Official Statement of the Democratic Party
After this weekend, this statement was added to the Democratic Party’s official 2016 platform:
“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.”
Recently, a 15-person panel voted to include the following statement, which is also part of the party’s 2016 platform:
“We believe that the states should be laboratories of democracy on the issue of marijuana, and those states that want to decriminalize marijuana should be able to do so. We support policies that will allow more research on marijuana, as well as reforming our laws to allow legal marijuana businesses to exist without uncertainty. And we recognize our current marijuana laws have had an unacceptable disparate impact, with arrest rates for marijuana possession among African Americans far outstripping arrest rates among whites, despite similar usage rates.”
Marijuana reform was already a part of the Democratic Party’s platform but the additions made point to a direction that will lead to federal marijuana legalization.
Federal Marijuana Legalization Not Embraced by Republican Party
Unfortunately Republicans have not been so level headed and reasonable regarding marijuana reform. On Monday, the party voted not to support medical marijuana or include it in their 2016 platform. The debate included delegates spouting completely false myths as facts. Some of these outdated scientifically incorrect notions (that are remnants from the anti-marijuana propaganda days) are known by most rational people to be false. Yet somehow, they were used as valid arguments in the debate. Such statements included; mass murderers all smoke weed, the heroin epidemic is a result of teens smoking marijuana and pot leads to mental health problems. Rational Republican delegates, who were pro medical marijuana attempted to argue these statements but ultimately lost.
Trump Nominates Marijuana Prohibitionist for VP Spot
Another blow to marijuana reform from the Republican Party came from Trump’s decision to have Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his Vice President. Mike Pence is known for being passionately against marijuana reform. Despite the fact that 54% of Indiana residents are for the decriminalization of marijuana, Pence has been more focused on increasing punishment. Legislators in Indiana have tried to reduce penalties for marijuana possession in Indiana with no success. Pence has blocked all attempts saying, “I think we need to focus on reducing crime, not reducing penalties.” Marijuana possession is still a Class B misdemeanor which can incur a $1000 fine and 180 days in jail. As Vice President, he would be in a position to block marijuana reform, especially with the party coming down against medical marijuana.
According to polls, 78 percent of the country are in favor of legalizing medical marijuana and 61 percent are in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana. In both these circumstances, federal marijuana legalization is necessary to provide the cannabis industry the security needed to continue without risk and interference. The November election will have a great impact on the marijuana industry either way.