The Democratic National Convention kicks off this week in Philadelphia, and delegates are set to officially approve the nation’s first-ever major party platform to endorse marijuana legalization. The latest version of the draft platform also includes broader planks criticizing the overall war on drugs.
As Marijuana.com was first to report, the party’s Platform Drafting Committee unanimously voted last month to adopt a plank respecting the right of states to set their own marijuana laws without federal interference. The party’s full Platform Committee then voted to expand the plank ever further, adding a clause supporting a “reasoned pathway for future legalization” and calling for marijuana to be rescheduled — despite pressure from prohibitionists who wanted Democrats to stay far away from endorsing legalization.
The full marijuana plank in the draft 2016 Democratic Party Platform now reads:
Because of conflicting federal and state laws concerning marijuana, we encourage the federal government to remove marijuana from the list of “Schedule 1″ federal controlled substances and to appropriately regulate it, providing a reasoned pathway for future legalization. We believe that the states should be laboratories of democracy on the issue of marijuana, and those states that want to decriminalize it or provide access to medical 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 in terms of arrest rates for African Americans that far outstrip arrest rates for whites, despite similar usage rates.
What hasn’t yet been reported is that the platform draft — a full copy of which was just uploaded to the Democratic Convention website — also now includes planks supporting broader drug policy reform:
The “war on drugs” has led to the imprisonment of millions of Americans, disproportionately people of color, without reducing drug use. Whenever possible, Democrats will prioritize prevention and treatment over incarceration when tackling addiction and substance use disorder. We will build on effective models of drug courts, veterans’ courts, and other diversionary programs that seek to give nonviolent offenders opportunities for rehabilitation as opposed to incarceration.
While drug policy reformers have been critical of drug courts for continuing to treat a health issue through the framework of the criminal justice system, the language calling out the drug war’s racially discriminatory impact and lack of success in reducing use is likely to elicit cheers from activists.
The platform also calls for the removal of collateral consequences that often come along with drug convictions, such as the loss of access to eduction, housing and employment:
Combating Drug and Alcohol Addiction
We must confront the epidemic of drug and alcohol addiction, specifically the opioid crisis and other drugs plaguing our communities, by vastly expanding access to prevention and treatment, supporting recovery, helping community organizations, and promoting better practices by prescribers. The Democratic Party is committed to assisting the estimated 20 million people struggling with addiction in this country to find and sustain healthy lives by encouraging full recovery and integration into society and working to remove common barriers to gainful employment, housing, and education. We will continue to fight to expand access to care for addiction services, and ensure that insurance coverage is equal to that for any other health conditions. We think it is time for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Labor, and state regulatory agencies to fully implement the protections of the Mental Health Parity and Addictions Equity Act of 2008—which means that American medical insurers, including the federal government, will need to disclose how they make their medical management decisions.
Elsewhere, the platform says Democrats “are committed to reforming our criminal justice system and ending mass incarceration” and pledges to “reform mandatory minimum sentences and close private prisons and detention centers.” It also lifts language straight from Sen. Bernie Sanders’s stump speech by saying, “Instead of investing in more jails and incarceration, we need to invest more in jobs and education, and end the school-to-prison pipeline.” And, the draft urges the next president to issue an executive order preventing federal employers and contractors from considering applicants’ criminal records prior to interviewing them for jobs.
The broad criminal justice and drug policy reform sentiments are increasingly becoming consensus positions in the Democratic Party, especially when it comes to marijuana.
An analysis by Marijuana.com found that at least 12 state Democratic Party platforms this year are specifically calling for cannabis law reform. Polls consistently 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.
Hillary Clinton, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, while personally not yet in favor of legalizing marijuana, says she supports the right of states to enact their own policies without federal interference and has pledged to reschedule cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act.
Clinton’s choice of running mate, Tim Kaine, has voiced personal opposition to marijuana law reform but says he supports respecting state laws.
The Republican Party’s 2016 platform acknowledges that in many places “marijuana is virtually legalized despite its illegality under federal law” but sidesteps the question of whether localities should be able to implement cannabis policies without federal interference.
But GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump says he supports medical marijuana “100 percent” and has repeatedly pledged to respect state laws even though he personally opposes full legalization. Republican vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence, on the other hand, voted six times to maintain the federal government’s ability to arrest and prosecute medical marijuana patients who are acting in accordance with local cannabis policies.
Broad demographic shifts in the country may force the GOP to officially evolve on marijuana policy sooner rather than later, however, and a poll released last week found that — for the first time ever — more Republicans support legalizing marijuana than oppose it.
Democratic delegates are expected to officially vote on adopting the draft party platform on Monday evening, according to a Democratic National Convention Committee spokesman.
Photo Courtesy of kristinasavkov.