The Democratic Party’s Cannabis Position Stinks. Here’s How We’d Change It.Bruce BarcottJuly 1, 2016
The Democratic Party released its official pre-convention platform this afternoon, giving all of us policy wonks stuck in our offices prior to the July 4 weekend something to read and grumble about.
So let’s get grumbling!
The party’s position on cannabis consists of 86 words of room-temp tea. Cold oatmeal. Stale fries. Choose your own food-based metaphor. It’s far more Hillary than Bernie, all uncertainty and more-research-is-needed, served up with a nearly offensive tip o’ the cap to the outrageous disparities between white and African American marijuana arrest rates. Here it is, in all its half-measured glory:
“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 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.”
This is a platform that could be vastly improved in two minutes.
In fact, we did just that. We sent it around the Leafly editorial office for revision. Here are four alternate-universe versions, from writers Bruce Barcott, Lisa Rough, Brett Konen, and Ben Adlin. Changes are in bold.
Alt Version 1: The De-Scheduler
“We believe that the states should be laboratories of democracy on the issue of marijuana, and those states that want to legalize and regulate marijuana should be able to do so. We support the end of federal marijuana prohibition. We believe marijuana should be entirely dropped from the federal schedule of controlled substances. We support policies that will allow uninhibited research on marijuana, as well as reforming our federal tax, banking, and other laws to allow legal marijuana businesses to exist without uncertainty. We believe the U.S. Justice Department should end its oversight of marijuana and allow states to regulate the substance as they please. 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. With that in mind, we support clemency and amnesty for those convicted of, and accused of, federal and state crimes involving marijuana.” (Bruce Barcott)
Alt Version 2: The Justice System Overhaul
“We believe that cannabis has been proven in multiple, wide-ranging scientific studies to have extensive medical benefits for a variety of illnesses and ailments and, as such, cannabis should be removed from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act and be moved to Schedule II. This would expand the opportunities for further research and remove barriers for scientists who do not have access due to current scheduling restrictions. We recognize our current marijuana laws have had a devastating impact on African Americans, and we believe that in order to reduce the disparity between the races, wholesale changes need to be made to the current criminal justice system.” (Lisa Rough)
Alt Version 3: The Precise Rescheduler
“We recognize that states have the constitutional right to act as laboratories of democracy on the issue of cannabis, and to do so without interference or threat thereof from the federal government. Those states that want to decriminalize or legalize cannabis for medical or adult recreational use can and should be able to do so. We strongly support policies that will facilitate more rigorous and extensive research on cannabis, as well as reforming our laws to allow legal cannabis businesses to exist without obstacles or uncertainty. Furthermore, we recognize that our current cannabis laws have had an unacceptably disparate impact on different racial and socioeconomic groups, with arrest rates for cannabis possession among African Americans far outstripping arrest rates among whites despite similar usage rates. The rescheduling of cannabis at the federal level is decades overdue, and continued inattention to this issue is unacceptable. We support the immediate rescheduling of cannabis to Schedule II or lower, if it remains scheduled at all.” (Brett Konen)
Alt Version 4: The Science-Based Solution
“We believe that current federal policies regarding cannabis and its constituent compounds — particularly their inclusion in the Controlled Substances Act — has no basis in science and, in fact, borders on paternalism. We call on Congress to take the lead in setting common-sense policies regarding academic research and the medical effects of consumption, recognizing that cannabis poses a far smaller threat to public health than alcohol and nicotine. As a growing number of states have shown, legalization and sensible regulation of both medical and adult-use markets help ensure safe and consistent products while limiting the availability of cannabis to minors. Reform also begins to address some of the worst consequences of the drug war — disproportionately harsh criminal penalties, mass incarceration, and widespread racial discrimination. It’s time for cannabis regulations to be the result of scientific evidence and intellectual honesty, not stale political propaganda.” (Ben Adlin)