The Democratic National Committee got together over the weekend and decided on making marijuana reform part of the party’s platform for 2016. With 25 states having now legalized medical marijuana and recreational marijuana legal in Oregon, Alaska, Washington, Colorado and D.C., it seems like an issue that is long overdue for some change. On a federal level, marijuana is still considered a Schedule I drug, putting it in the most dangerous category alongside heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines. In this category, it is considered to have no medical benefits. Clearly, the classification is outdated, and prohibition of this nature has not only made it difficult for patients to receive medical treatment, but it has also led to the incarceration of thousands of people, impacting families across the country for many years.
Conflict Within the Democratic Party
The Democratic Party is led by anti-marijuana Florida Congresswoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. In January, she told the New York Times that she was against the legalization of marijuana because it is a “gateway drug”, although her opinion was received with deep skepticism due to the thousands of dollars in campaign money she has received for many years from the alcohol industry. Upon further discussion this weekend, the party unanimously agreed that marijuana reform was an essential part of the party’s platform for 2016. The reform involves allowing more research to be done on marijuana, removing criminal penalties for marijuana possession and allowing states to set their own laws without federal interference.
Marijuana Reform as Part of the Party Platform
The Democratic Party’s official statement reads: “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 to be done 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.”
Bernie Sanders Attempts to End Prohibition
Bernie Sanders and his advocates called for the end of prohibition entirely, stating that marijuana should be removed from the Federal Controlled Substances Act. Bill McKibben, who was Sanders’ appointed panel member said that the fact that marijuana has remained in federal policy has “damaged millions of lives.” He talked about the positive effects of legalization in states like Colorado and Washington. Unfortunately, the other members of the party were not prepared to end prohibition yet. For now, marijuana reform seems to be the comfortable next step.
Regardless of federal law and it’s repercussions, cities and states across the country have been decriminalizing and legalizing marijuana. Six more states, including Maine, California and Nevada are voting on legalization in this November ballot. More states keep legalizing medical marijuana every year as well. The industry has shown only positive results so far, with no impact on teen use; in fact, there has even been a decrease. Marijuana has been proven to be safer than alcohol when it comes to both health and driving. The industry has created wealth for the state and opened up job and business opportunities for many people. The industry seems to be booming no matter what, so it seems that federal reform of marijuana laws is only a matter of time now.