Democrats Approve Marijuana Platform Plank

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Members of a Democratic National Committee panel responsible for drafting the party’s 2016 platform have approved a plank calling for broad marijuana law reform.

It 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.”

The language isn’t as specific as some advocates, including Platform Drafting Committee members appointed by the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders, would have liked. The Sanders campaign sent an email blast to its list on Thursday asking supporters to weigh in on a proposed plank to take marijuana completely out of the Controlled Substances Act.

To that end, at Friday’s drafting committee meeting, Sanders-appointed members, led by environmental activist Bill McKibben, proposed language reading:

“We will refocus our drug policy by removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and allowing states to set their own policies.”

But that measure, as drafted, was quickly tabled, and discussions during the panel’s dinner break resulted in the longer version, which was later adopted unanimously by the 15-person panel.

Democratic Platform Drafting Committee unanimously approves marijuana plank.

Democratic Platform Drafting Committee unanimously approves marijuana plank.

“This is one of these issues where society has largely made up its mind, like gay marriage, and now it’s time for politicians and political institutions to catch up with them,” McKibben said during a brief discussion before the vote. “The idea that marijuana is maintained in federal policy as a drug equivalent to heroin or cocaine or methamphetamine is not only silly, it’s also damaged millions of lives at this point as people have had to cope with the repercussions of that unsound federal policy. We’ve begun to see experimentation in states with good effect, and it’s important that the federal government let that experimentation continue in full without any of the problems that are caused by marijuana continuing to be a federally scheduled drug.”

The sentiment is broadly shared among Democrats.

An analysis by Marijuana.com earlier this week found that at least 12 state Democratic Party platforms this year are calling for cannabis law reform. Polls show that a significant majority of the party’s voters support ending prohibition, and a growing number of its elected officials in Congress and state legislatures are actively working to enact cannabis legislation.

Drafting committee member Keith Ellison, a congressman from Minnesota, spoke up at the meeting to decry the wide racial disparities in marijuana arrests despite the fact that whites and blacks use cannabis at virtually identical rates. “As a person who would not recommend marijuana usage personally, I’m strongly in favor of this proposal,” he said.

Committee chair Elijah Cummings, a congressman from Maryland, agreed.

“I live in a neighborhood where I hear African-American men almost on a daily basis ask the question, ‘Why are we getting arrested for marijuana when we turn on the television and in Colorado, they’re selling it on television?’ They can’t understand. It doesn’t make sense to them,” he said. “There are a lot of people who feel that our system of justice is just so unfair. You can go to jail in one state and the other one you’re getting rich and everybody knows it, and it’s legal. Hopefully in time this thing will even out.”

The marijuana plank, and others, can still be amended. The drafting committee’s language heads next to the full 187-member platform committee meeting in Orlando on July 8 and 9, and then to the full convention in Philadelphia, which takes place July 25-28.

Photo Courtesy of  kristinasavkov.

About Author

Tom Angell covers policy and politics for Marijuana.com. Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit organization Marijuana Majority, which works to ensure that elected officials and the media treat legalization as a serious, mainstream issue. Marijuana Majority led the effort to get the U.S. Conference of Mayors to pass a resolution telling the federal government to respect state marijuana laws, and orchestrated the first-ever endorsement for marijuana legalization by a U.S. Supreme Court justice (John Paul Stevens). Previously, Tom worked for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (All organizations are listed for identification purposes only.)

13 Comments

  1. So another plank from Sanders that establishment Democrats have rejected. They have nobody to blame but themselves when they are rejected in November.

  2. Cannibis has been proven to help people with COPD and seizures… No research is needed… Man over district 7 here in Texas… His daughter HAD 15 seizures a day… Since moving to Colorado she is seizure free… I have both and all the medicines I take comes with warnings on what they can do to my body… Same with adds on tv

  3. What does it matter? Bernie has been cheated out of the nomination by Shrillary. They will do their best to silence him and his message at the convention. They have no shame.

  4. I totally agree marijuana is an herb! God put it here for us to use. Alcohol is man made. This herb saved my life, I truly believe that. I’ve had so many intestinal operations it’s the only thing that helps me eat and with the pain in my intestines!! I wish everyone who has not tried it would until they do theyhave any right to arrest people who need and like an herb! I’m a person who believes in truth and honesty and there is no reason it’s not legal in all states!! President Obama should legalize marijuana in the United States of America, please

  5. Take it out of the Controlled Substances Act. Nothing less will stop the damage done by marijuana prohibition. Let Trump rail against the “legalizers”. He’ll do that even if the Dem platform speaks only of the laboratories of democracy on the issue of marijuana.

  6. The Democrats have nothing to say on MEDICAL marijuana? They’re ok with cannabis in schedule 1 or 2? Yeah sure, because everyone knows cannabis is as dangerous as opiates.
    Doctors everywhere in the country need to be able to prescribe cannabis. Patients can’t wait. The Democrats just slapped patients in the face. They need to rethink this.

  7. Research is fine, but we already know one bottom line: cannabis is so much safer than alcohol that there is utterly no comparison. The Centers for Disease Control knows all about it, but they don’t want to talk about it.

  8. People should mind their own business, actually.. stay out of others lives on things they dont understand nor willing to investigate .. They’d prefer I’d use chemicals that kill my cells .. The AMA is an industry that makes billions off of cancer .. I really cant stand whats left of the anti-marijuana movement.. their whole case is based on lies and fear.. Like they wont even allow university studies of the plant .. Do they realise hemp when legalised will pay off the nations 19 trillion dollar debt and create a wave of clean energy that can save mankind from itself? I can’t believe so many still live in the reefer madness era.. I thought all those dingbats would have been dead by now, Phew.

  9. I don’t know or care whether marijuana is a drug or herb. I do care that marijuana arrests have made possession and simple use a criminal act that has negatively impacted thousands of lives.

  10. Dr. Gail H. Devoid, Ph.D. on

    How can there be research done when cannabis is on Schedule I? Look what Dr. Sue Sisley, Ph.D. has gone through to get permission to conduct her research! Currently, she cannot get the strains she needs from the US Government’s supply of cannabis, because they not only don’t grow it, they don’t know HOW to grow the strains that will help epilepsy or seizures. Yet the government holds a patent on cannabis because the patent says it is good for neurological conditions. Our government and it processes are ludicrous.

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