Clinton Staff Proposed Marijuana Attack on Rival, Leak Shows


Campaign staffers for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton proposed attacking primary election opponent Martin O’Malley for evolving too slowly on marijuana decriminalization, newly leaked emails show.

“Gov. O’Malley opposed decriminalizing marijuana until the day he signed it into law,” reads a suggested talking point in an email sent last October by Tony Carrk, the Clinton campaign’s research director. “The Frederick News-Post called him an ’11th hour convert.'”

While marijuana law reform advocates had also criticized O’Malley, a former Maryland governor, for opposing decriminalization until a bill got to his desk, the proposed attack would be a curious one for Hillary Clinton to deploy. That’s because she hasn’t ever clearly called for decriminalizing cannabis.

In fact, during Clinton’s last presidential campaign, in 2007, she specifically said, “I don’t think we should decriminalize it.”

Since then, she has endorsed a number of reforms such as rescheduling cannabis under federal law and allowing states to set their own policies, but she hasn’t clearly called for the removal of criminal penalties for possession — which may be why the campaign never ended up deploying the evolved-too-slowly attack against O’Malley.

Clinton’s current campaign website does say that she supports “alternatives to incarceration for low-level, nonviolent marijuana users,” but the language is sufficiently vague as to possibly include continued arrests and forcing people caught with cannabis to go to drug courts to avoid being sent behind bars.

She also said during a Democratic debate last year that “we have got to stop imprisoning people who use marijuana,” but again stopped short of clearly calling for an end to arrests, court cases and the often life-damaging criminal records that can result.

In addition to prison sentences, people convicted of marijuana and other drug offenses face collateral consequences such as loss of college financial aid, reduced job prospects, removal from public housing and, in some cases, denial of the right to vote.

A review of speeches, debate transcripts and interviews shows that Clinton has never publicly used the word “decriminalization” to describe her favored approach to marijuana policy.

Caark’s message is the second leaked Clinton campaign email of note for marijuana policy watchers this week. On Monday, was first to report on a message showing that the former secretary of state spoke out against legalizing marijuana in a paid speech at Xerox.

URSULA BURNS: So long means thumbs up, short means thumbs down; or long means I support, short means I don’t. I’m going to start with — I’m going to give you about ten long-shorts.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Even if you could make money on a short, you can’t answer short.

URSULA BURNS: You can answer short, but you got to be careful about letting anybody else know that. They will bet against you. So legalization of pot?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Short in all senses of the word.

The excerpt is from an 80-page document prepared by Clinton’s campaign highlighting potentially problematic passages from her paid speeches to Goldman Sachs, General Electric, Deutsche Bank and other major corporations.

Combined with comments from the candidate’s daughter Chelsea last month implying that cannabis use can lead to death, the newly-leaked documents — the result of a hack on Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s email account — could present an added sense of urgency for Clinton to further evolve her position on marijuana prior to Election Day in order to win support from millennial voters who are wary of her candidacy.

To see what else Hillary Clinton has said about cannabis law reform, check out’s comprehensive guide to the candidates.

Photo Courtesy of Allie Beckett.

About Author

Tom Angell covers policy and politics for 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.)


  1. I plan to hold my nose and vote for Hillary. That said I wish to God that we had a better choice than her!!! There is no way I’d vote for a Trump and I conclude that Gary Johnson, who is my true favorite, has too little chance of winning.

    I am putting my hope in the Democratic party itself since Hillary is not someone I like or trust one bit. She is just the lesser of the two evils when compared to Trump.

    2016 will go down in history as the year America has to choose between the two most disliked presidential candidates ever!

  2. I disagree, Hillary says one thing then talks out of the back of her face saying something else. Trump said he would not interfere with states medical marijuana policies, at least he seems trustworthy. Now Pence the VP candidate, he is the problem. I would like to see them evolve, reschedule cannabis to class 3. And allow states to regulate as they see fit, as was intended in the Constitution, those laws not outlined for the Fed were to remain in the States rights.

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