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Democrat Candidates For President Evolve On Marijuana Law Reform


democratic national convention marijuana harold and kumarBy Danielle Keane, NORML Political Director

Former Maryland Governor and current democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley yesterday held a marijuana legalization listening session in Denver, Colorado. Hoping to ignite progressive voters and to differentiate himself from the two leading democratic candidates, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, O’Malley is emphasizing marijuana law reform as a key plank of his campaign.

O’Malley met in Denver with leading marijuana law reform activists, and cannabis industry leaders, acknowledging, “If you talk to young Americans under 30 there is a growing consensus that marijuana should be treated more akin to alcohol than to other substances.” He pledged, if elected President, to use his executive authority to move marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act.

“While O’Malley’s pledge is a step in the right direction, NORML believes in descheduling cannabis, not rescheduling cannabis. Cocaine, for instance, is a Schedule II controlled substance under federal law, as is methamphetamine. NORML is not of the belief that an ideal public policy is to cease treating marijuana like heroin (Schedule I) but rather to treat it like cocaine (Schedule II).” As NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano recently told the Associated Press, “Rather, we would prefer to see cannabis classified and regulated in a manner that more closely resembles alcohol or tobacco, neither substance of which is classified in any category under the CSA.”

O’Malley’s announcement yesterday came on the heels of recent, marijuana-specific comments by Clinton and Sanders.

On Monday, at a campaign stop in Luther College, Clinton responded to a question on whether or not she would support marijuana legalization as President. She answered, “I would support states and localities that are experimenting with this.”

In an interview with Little Village, a public affairs program on PATV in Iowa City, Sanders also pledged non-governmental interference in state marijuana laws, commenting, “What the federal government can do is say to the state of Colorado that if you choose to vote to legalize marijuana, we will allow you to do that without restrictions.”

Sanders also pledged to amend federal banking laws to permit state-licensed business to operate like any other legal entity, “In Colorado people who run marijuana shops can’t put their money in banks,” he said. “That’s a violation of federal law. So I think there are things that the federal government can do that would make it easier for states that want to go in that direction to be able to do so.” In addition, he reiterated his position in favor of medical marijuana and decriminalization, a policy he supported in his home state of Vermont.

However, when asked about full legalization, Sanders continues to be noncommittal, responding, “We’re exploring the pluses and minuses — of which there are both — of moving more aggressively on that issue. It is a very important issue. We’re watching what Colorado is doing, and we’ll have more to say about that in the coming weeks and months.”

The comments made by all three Democratic candidates for president, coupled with the marijuana related question aimed at the Republican candidates in the most recent Republican primary debate, highlight the new, elevated role marijuana law reform is playing in the election of our next President of the United States. In previous years, candidates’ largely ignored or belittled the issue. But this election that won’t suffice. Voters are demanding clear answers from candidates on what the federal government should do in relation to marijuana policy and they are demanding a change from business as usual.

Source: NORML - make a donation


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Johnny Green


  1. I GAVE UP A 13 YEAR METHADONE, FENTANYL,OXYCONTIN EVEN DILAUDID addiction and now use MM. My state doesn’t allow it but being 1 state away from CO. has it’s benefits. Dropping the CSA sched. to A lower shed by any candidate would definitely win my and many others vote

  2. Two things. Every one of your points apply equally well to any drug. And I’d take your deal of outlawing traditional american cigarettes because they are jammed full of nasty chemicals by folks who ought to be in jail.

  3. I agree. However, people should be required to pay the actual cost of a pack of cigarettes, and the tobacco companies themselves shouldn’t profit from cost shifting their negative externalities onto the rest of us.

  4. More proof that you are a Glibertarian with right wing leanings economically.

    “Tobacco users pay more for their premiums, so the cancer treatment cost is already built in.”

    And yet a pack of cigarettes still costs much less than the actual cost to society. Using taxes to pay for the negative externalities of smoking is a subsidy to tobacco companies.

  5. It is not an evolution we need. We have evolved to a majority. We need a revolution to force politician to enact the will of the people. GO VOTE if voting does not do it then it is time to start forming groups willing to protest and do whatever it takes to win the war.

  6. The reality is, if the 3 headed monster hadn’t always been chasing us, we would have kept consuming as in the 70’s. Why is it so easy for the liars to keep up the fake smile? I have a real hard time, wrapping around my head, that these do do birds, are gonna run our country, when all they are is puppets for PAC’s, and big business. The reefer madness, and Dragnet, eras are gone! Where is a real hero, that can make this country great again?

  7. We’ve got Obamacare now, no need for prohibition light on tobacco with excessive taxes and regulation. Everyone is required to have insurance that will pay for their healthcare. Tobacco users pay more for their premiums, so the cancer treatment cost is already built in. No need for the excessive taxes now with Obamacare. Right? Smokers are paying for their mandatory insurance and the insurance companies are paying the medical bills. Sorry, but Obamacare took away the argument you just made to try to justify excessive taxation.

    The tax is already $8/pack in Chicago, taking the per pack price to $12. Cigarette smuggling has increased from 8% of retail sales, to more than 40% of retail sales. Factor in people illegally bringing in cigarettes purchased outside of Chicago/Cook County, and the smuggling rate is probably over 80%. Technically, Chicago/Cook residents must still pay their tax on cigarettes brought into their city/county, even though no one does it.

    So why not take that $8/pack tax national, you are probably thinking. Because the same black market will happen with tobacco as happened with alcohol and other “sin” substances. Smuggling from outside the US will vastly increase and the same cartels and gangsters will find a new revenue source. Street gangs in the US will join in, and we’ll continue having violence on the streets in poor neighborhoods with bloody turf battles over who can sell cigarettes in what territory.

    Excessive taxation on tobacco is logical, I’ll give you that, but it is short-sighted, shallow thinking and doomed to failure.
    1) I own my body, not you and not the government.

    2) Cigarettes are not the only way tobacco is used.
    3) Fire-retardant chemicals are mandatory in mass produced cigarettes and have now been found to have links to cancer. No study has been done on plain, organic tobacco without the chemicals the government requires be added to cigarettes.
    4) As morbid as it sounds, a smoker that dies of cancer at an earlier age (less than 30% of smokers end up with lung cancer) do not draw social security and medicare as long as a healthy person living into his/her 80s and 90s. Economically, before Obamacare, the costs of smokers was a wash because they saved money on the back end by not living as long. Now, with Obamacare, those costs are born in the insurance premiums and on the insurance companies.
    5) Smoking rates started declining rapidly with greater education and PR efforts, long before excessive taxes of $8/pack were put in place.
    6) Why stop at tobacco, it would only be fair to put excessive taxes on everything that contributes to heart disease, which is the number one cause of death. Alcohol, $10/6 pack. Sugary drinks, $5/liter. Mac&Cheese $2/box. Candy, cookies and sweets, $3/ounce. Also, because of the number of traffic fatalities it would only be fair to govern all cars to not exceed 40 miles per hour. Why single out tobacco users when there are many, many bad behaviors that lead to health care costs, am I right? If we are going all in on sin taxes, no one should be left out. Heck, lets weigh everyone and tack on a fat tax to their yearly income tax bill, just to be fair and equitable.

    7) Once we have all these sin taxes in place, it will create a class system where only the rich can afford the sin taxes as a luxury. A poor person that wants a nice bottle of wine once a month, too bad, they won’t be able to afford it every month so they’ll have to save for 4 months for that bottle of wine instead. Such a great way to treat the poor people by putting them in the low class where they rarely can afford to pay the taxes on a few luxuries of life once in a while.
    8) And of course we need to give the police even more weapons to target the poor and minorites with these excessive sin taxes. NYC cops can strangle black men to death on the street at their every whim when they are caught selling one cigarette without paying the proper taxes and fees. Might as well train drug dogs to sniff for tobacco now too, in order to catch all those cigarette smugglers not paying the $8/pack tax. And we’ll need more SWAT teams performing no-knock raids to make sure tobacco users don’t flush their tobacco down the toilet that they didn’t pay the tax on.
    9) Prohibition, and prohibition light (excessive taxation and regulation) has never worked and will never work.
    10) It bears repeating, I own my body, not you, and not the government.

    I will compromise with you however. I’d support a Constitutional amendment to ban the manufacturing and sale of mass produced cigarettes and the fire-retardant chemicals put in them. If people want to smoke cigarettes, they can grow or buy raw, natural tobacco, and cigarette tubes without chemicals and make their own. Even tax it at a rate comparable to other sin taxes, including any tax on cannabis.

    How about that as a more thorough, far-sighted, and well thought out option in place of a knee jerk $8/pack tax proposal?

  8. Okay then, $8 a pack amounts to $.40 a smoke. 95% tax.

    20 cigarettes a day might just pay for treatment when you get cancer. Would that pot should be treated so very casually. Here now, that’s an option…

  9. Yeah. Sick people is the reason the logjam broke. But in the end to protect them, everyone else should be accorded the same rights. Then they wont be special anymore.

  10. No, tobacco should certainly NOT be Schedule 1. Prohibition does NOT work. Locking people in cages for tobacco is just as stupid as doing that to people with cannabis. In fact, the entire Controlled Substance Act and its willy nilly Schedules should all be scrapped entirely.

  11. Tobacco should be Schedule 1. Pure THC (Marinol) is Schedule 3, so anything that contains less than 100% of it shouldn’t be on anything more restrictive than Schedule 4, based on how the DEA schedules other drugs.
    Based on its safety profile, Marijuana shouldn’t be on any schedule at all, and should be “over the counter”
    Its safer than NSAIDS, and much safer than Tylenol — Google “Therapeutic Index”

    It is IMMORAL to leave Marijuana illegal for even one second longer.
    it is one of the biggest MORAL issues of our time.

  12. @PhDScientist

    Of course sick folks should be first in line when it comes to cannabis rights.

    However, the only reason we throw sick cannabis consumers under the bus is to prevent healthy folks from consuming it. The only way to protect sick cannabis consumers is to end cannabis prohibitions for all. Only then will all sick people get what they need and deserve.

    Schedule II is a good first step, but it won’t solve the problem. Cannabis needs to be descheduled altogether.

  13. This year, over 1.6 MILLION Americans will be diagnosed with Cancer.
    Over 3,000 Americans will die of Cancer this weekend alone.
    Every American with Cancer deserves safe, legal, access to Medical Marijuana.
    Every. Single. One.
    The 2016 election is too far way.
    Every single minute yet another American dies of Cancer.

    They can’t wait until the next election. They need results now.

  14. Please call the white house comment line at (202) 456-1111 and request that President Obama get Marijuana taken off of Schedule 1 immediately.

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