Posts Tagged ‘president’

President Obama Talks Marijuana

obamaIn an “exit interview” with Rolling Stone, President Obama spoke about decriminalizing marijuana and treating cannabis as a public-health issue rather than a criminal one.

“Look, I’ve been very clear about my belief that we should try to discourage substance abuse. And I am not somebody who believes that legalization is a panacea. But I do believe that treating this as a public-health issue, the same way we do with cigarettes or alcohol, is the much smarter way to deal with it. Typically how these classifications are changed are not done by presidential edict but are done either legislatively or through the DEA. As you might imagine, the DEA, whose job it is historically to enforce drug laws, is not always going to be on the cutting edge about these issues.”

Throughout his presidency, Obama has taken a hands-off approach to pot. In 2013, his administration announced that they wouldn’t sue to stop recreational marijuana in Colorado after voters passed Amendment 64. Soon after, the Justice Department followed suit. However, advocates in state’s that have some form of legal cannabis are nervous about what the Trump incoming administration means for the cannabis industry.

“If you survey the American people, including Trump voters, they’re…in favor, in large numbers, of decriminalizing marijuana,” Obama said.

It’s unclear what stance Trump will take on marijuana, but many advocates are concerned about the president-elect’s choice for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). Sessions is a long-time opponent of cannabis, perhaps best known for his statements that, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” and that he thought members of the Ku Klux Klan “were okay until I found out they smoked pot.”

Even if this new administration plans to shut down marijuana, it may be difficult to put the pot genie back in the bottle. After this year’s election, more than that half of U.S. states have legalized medical marijuana and seven states plus the District of Columbia have approved recreational marijuana.

“It is untenable over the long term for the Justice Department or the DEA to be enforcing a patchwork of laws, where something that’s legal in one state could get you a twenty-year prison sentence in another. So this is a debate that is now ripe, much in the same way that we ended up making progress on same-sex marriage,” said Obama.

Gary Johnson Predicts Obama Reclassification Of Cannabis

garyjohnsonFormer New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson said that he thinks President Obama could reschedule marijuana from a Schedule I drug to Schedule II.

Schedule I drugs include LSD and heroin–drugs that are considered high risk for abuse and addiction and that have no currently accepted medical use. Schedule II drugs include cocaine and painkillers like oxycodone. The reclassification would green-light cannabis research and enable doctors to prescribe the drug.

Tom Angell, chairman of the advocacy group Marijuana Majority, said rescheduling marijuana doesn’t require an act of Congress–the attorney general and secretary of Health and Human Services could reschedule cannabis without further legislation under the Controlled Substances Act.

“It’s tough to predict what the president will do on this issue before he leaves office, but if he’s willing to uphold his pledge to set policy based on science, and he listens to the majority of Americans who support marijuana reform, he will exercise his administrative authority for rescheduling,” Mr. Angell said.

Presidential Candidates Weigh in on Marijuana

white-house-cannabisBoth marijuana and the political race have dominated the news in recent months, and the outcome of the presidential election could have a huge impact on marijuana policy nationwide. Democrats and Republicans have widely different positions on medical and recreational cannabis. The Marijuana Policy Project has published the candidates’ positions and on-the-record statements, summarized here:

Democrats:

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D)

In November 2015, Senator Sanders proposed legislation that would allow states to regulate marijuana like alcohol and tobacco. He has expressed concern regarding marijuana incarceration rates: “Someone in the United States is arrested every minute on marijuana charges. Too many Americans have seen their lives destroyed because they have criminal records as a result of marijuana use. That’s wrong. That has got to change.”

The proposed legislation would remove marijuana from federal drug schedules, and marijuana businesses would have access to banking and standard tax deductions.

“Bernie favors removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances regulated by federal law. Under Bernie’s proposal, people in states which legalize marijuana no longer would be subject to federal prosecution for using pot. Owners of stores that sell marijuana could fully participate in the banking system, like any other business.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D)

Secretary Clinton supports reclassifying marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II, which would finally allow broader scientific research. She does not support incarceration for marijuana use or possession. Clinton has not taken a clear position on recreational marijuana laws, saying that she wants to wait and see what happens in states that have legalized it.

“I think that we have the opportunity through the states that are pursuing recreational marijuana to find out a lot more than we know today. I do support the use of medical marijuana, and I think even there we need to do a lot more research so that we know exactly how we’re going to help people for whom medical marijuana provides relief.”

Republicans:

Donald Trump (R)

TV personality and businessman Donald Trump has changed his position on marijuana since 1990, when he supported legalizing all drugs. He supports medical marijuana and states’ rights in constructing marijuana policies. He does not support legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use.

In June 2015, Trump said, “I’d say [regulating marijuana] is bad. Medical marijuana is another thing, but I think it’s bad and I feel strongly about that. [Moderator: “What about the states’ right aspect of it?”] If they vote for it, they vote for it… But I think, medical marijuana, 100%.”

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R)

Senator Cruz has previously criticized President Obama for not enforcing federal law after Colorado and Washington approved recreational marijuana use. In more recent months, he’s come out in favor of states’ rights, although he does not support drug legalization.

“That’s a legitimate question for the states to make a determination. And the citizens of Colorado and Washington State have come to a different conclusion. They’ve decided that they want to legalize it. I think it is appropriate for the federal government to recognize that the citizens of those states have made that decision. One of the benefits of it … is we can now watch and see what happens in Colorado and Washington State.”

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R)

Senator Marco Rubio does not support legalization of recreational or medical marijuana. In February 2016, he said, “There’s no positive impact to using marijuana,” and that if there are any medical benefits it should be taken to the FDA for approval. In a July 2014 interview, Senator Rubio said, “If there are medicinal uses of marijuana that don’t have the elements that are mind-altering or create the high but do alleviate whatever condition it may be they are trying to alleviate, that is something I would be open to.”

He believes that the federal government should enforce drug laws, even in states that have legalized marijuana. When asked if he would enforce federal law and shut down regulation in Colorado:

“Yes. Yes, I think, well, I think we need to enforce our federal laws. Now do states have a right to do what they want? They don’t agree with it, but they have their rights. But they don’t have a right to write federal policy as well. It is, I don’t believe we should be in the business of legalizing additional intoxicants in this country for the primary reason that when you legalize something, what you’re sending a message to young people is it can’t be that bad, because if it was that bad, it wouldn’t be legal.”

Governor John Kasich (R)

Ohio Governor John Kaisch is “totally opposed” to medical and recreational marijuana.

When asked about states that have adopted laws making marijuana legal for adults: “The people in those states have voted that way. The federal government has decided to kind of look the other way. I feel very strongly in my state, I’m going to oppose, and they’re going to put something on the ballot to legalize drugs. I’m totally opposed to it, because it is a scourge in this country. Now I would have to give it thought as to, I probably would not from the standpoint that the states have gone forward to prove that. I haven’t thought about this. I’d have to give it a little thought. … In my state and across this country, if I happened to be president, I would lead a significant campaign down at the grassroots level to stomp these drugs out of our country.”

 

Read more about presidential candidates and their positions on cannabis at Marijuana Policy Project: https://www.mpp.org/2016-presidential-candidates/

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