During an appearance in South Carolina over the weekend, Hillary Clinton endorsed amending marijuana from it’s current Schedule I classification, reserved for the most dangerous of drugs, to Schedule II, a lesser classification intended for drugs that have recognized medical applications but also have a high potential for abuse and severe psychological or physical dependence.
The presidential candidate said, “What I do want is for us to support research into medical marijuana because a lot more states have passed medical marijuana than have legalized marijuana, so we’ve got two different experiences or even experiments going on right now. And the problem with medical marijuana is there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence about how well it works for certain conditions, but we haven’t done any research. Why? Because it’s considered what’s called a Schedule I drug, and you can’t even do research on it.”
Let’s take a look at these statements a little more closely.
First, Clinton’s claim that “we haven’t done any research” on cannabis’ safety and potential efficacy is false. NORML documents hundreds of relevant trials here. Clinton’s allegation is further rebutted by the findings of a 2012 review of FDA-approved clinical trials involving the use of herbal cannabis in various patient populations, “Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking.”
Second, while Clinton’s comments mark an evolution in her position on marijuana policy, she is late to the game among the presidential candidates proposing policy solutions to marijuana’s prohibition. Fellow democrat presidential candidate, Martin O’Malley previously pledged to use his executive authority, if elected, to move marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II. And Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul is a sponsor of the CARERS Act, legislation that, among other things, would also move marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II.
Third, while all of these statements by presidential candidates is a step in the right direction, NORML has and will continue to advocate for marijuana’s removal from the federal Controlled Substances Act. Rescheduling marijuana from I to II would not limit the federal government’s authority to prosecute marijuana offenders, including those who are in compliance with state law, nor would it likely stimulate clinical trial research trials beyond those studies funded by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse and reliant upon government-grown marijuana.
Fortunately, Vermont Senator and Democrat Presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders has introduced legislation to remove marijuana from the US Federal Controlled Substances Act. The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2015 would deschedule cannabis from the CSA, similar to alcohol and tobacco. It would also allow states the power to establish their own marijuana policies and banking policies free from federal interference.
Reform advocates can contact their member of the US Senate in support of The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2015 by clicking here.
Fifty-five percent of registered voters believe that the personal use of marijuana should be legal, according to national tracking poll data compiled by Morning Consult – a Washington DC consulting firm. Thirty-eight percent of respondents polled said that they oppose legalization and eight percent were undecided.
Majorities of both men (57 percent) and women (52 percent) said that they support legalization. Among registered voters between the ages of ages of 18 and 44, over 60 percent endorse legalizing cannabis.
Majorities of both Democrats (63 percent) and Independents (59 percent) support legalization, according to the poll, while most Republicans (58 percent) do not.
The Morning Consult polling data is similar to those of other recent national polls, such as those by reported by Gallup, CBS News, and Pew, finding that a majority of Americans now support ending marijuana prohibition.
States that permit qualified patients to access medical marijuana via dispensaries possess lower rates of opioid addiction and overdose deaths, according to a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a non-partisan think-tank.
Researchers from the RAND Corporation and the University of California, Irvine assessed the impact of medical marijuana laws on problematic opioid use, as measured by treatment admissions for opioid pain reliever addiction (compiled from the years 1992 to 2012) and by state-level opioid overdose deaths (compiled from the years 1999 to 2013).
“[S]tates permitting medical marijuana dispensaries experience a relative decrease in both opioid addictions and opioid overdose deaths compared to states that do not,” authors reported. They found that women over the age of 40 showed the most significant decrease in problematic opioid use.
Data published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine reported that the enactment of statewide medicinal marijuana laws is associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates. “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws,” investigators reported.
Overdose deaths involving opioid analgesics have increased dramatically over the past decade. While fewer than 4,100 opiate-induced fatalities were reported for the year 1999, by 2010 this figure rose to over 16,600 according to an analysis by the US Centers for Disease Control.
An abstract of the study, “Do Medical Marijuana Laws Reduce Addictions and Deaths Related to Pain Killers?”, is available online here.
Shona Banda suffers from Crohn’s disease, and has found, as have many Crohn’s sufferers, that medical marijuana provides her with effective relief and allows her to manage her illness and live a somewhat normal life. Specifically, Banda uses cannabis oil.
The problem is she lives in, Garden City, Kansas, a state that does not yet recognize the medical uses of marijuana. And when her 11-year old son spoke up in his drug education class to challenge some of the anti-marijuana allegations being taught to the children – and shared the fact that his mother uses cannabis to manage her Crohn’s disease – Banda’s son was removed from her custody by the Kansas Department for Children and Families.
Her home was subsequently raided, and Banda is now facing three drug felonies (possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance within 1,000-feet of a school; endangering a child; and unlawful manufacture of a controlled substance) for the cannabis oil found in her home, and she faces a possible jail term in excess of 30-years. Banda first used cannabis oil to manage her disease when she lived in Colorado for a period of time, before returning to her home in Kansas.
Banda is being represented by attorney Sarah Swain, who publicly has promised an aggressive defense that will challenge every facet of the prosecution’s case, including the questioning of the 11-year-old son without either of his parents present; the search warrant issued for their home based on that questioning; and the federal classification of marijuana as a Schedule I substance with no medical usefulness.
This case is just the latest from states around the country that illustrate the incredibly harsh and unjustified consequences of marijuana prohibition, the unsustainable differences in the manner in which we treat our most vulnerable citizens from one state to another, and the absolute moral impairative that we stop treating seriously ill patients as criminals, regardless of where they may call home.
Surely this immediate situation could have been handled by reasonable people in a manner based on compassion and concern for the welfare of this serious ill mother, striving to find a way to lead a full life and raise her young son. The school could have exercised some discretion and common sense and accepted the comments made by her young son as reflecting the reality of his and his mother’s life, and this would not have become a matter of public concern. And the Garden City police should not have questioned the young child without his parent’s consent, and did not have to seek a questionable search warrant, based on the child’s statements, to invade Banda’s home and violate her privacy. And finally, the local prosecutor, Finney County Attorney Susan Richmeier, with even a wit of compassion and understanding, could have exercised her discretion and refused to file criminal charges, bringing this embarrassing episode to a close, and allowing this seriously ill woman a chance to live a normal life.
But at each level, the civic institutions in Kansas failed their responsibility to serve the best interests of the citizens of Kansas, ignoring the obviously compelling factual situation, and blindly pursuing the war on drugs, despite the horrendous repercussions of that choice.
Rather they have reminded us of the enduring harm caused by marijuana prohibition, and the damage it has done not just to the victims of this misguided war, but also to those in civic positions of trust who have lost their moral compass in their blind support for prohibition.
Shame on everyone who had anything to do with allowing this case to get to this point, and who failed to stand up and publicly question the appropriateness of this entire witch-hunt. These are people who are either incredibly ignorant of the important and sometimes life-altering benefits medical marijuana provides to tens of thousands of seriously ill patients across this country (37 states now permit at least limited medical use of marijuana), or they are truly mean-spirited people who simply do not care.
Regardless, it reminds me of how much work we still have ahead of us, and why I would never wish to live in rural Kansas.
Nearly six out of ten Coloradans say that they support keeping retail marijuana production and sales legal, according to statewide polling data released by Quinnipiac University.
The figure is a five percent increase in support since voters approved the law in November 2012. A September 2014 statewide NBC News/Marist College poll previously reported that 55 percent of Coloradoans favored the law.
Men and younger voters were most likely to support legalization. Voters ages 18 to 34 overwhelmingly favored state law (86 percent to 16 percent) while 50 percent of those ages 55 and older opposed it.
Male voters supported the legalization by a margin of 63 percent to 33 percent, while women only favored the law by a margin of 53 percent to 44 percent.
The gender and age differences in support are not surprising. A just-published study in the February issue of the journal Drug Abuse and Alcohol Dependence reports that women are twice as likely as men to perceive significant risks associated with the use of cannabis. The study reported that those least likely to perceive significant harms associated with cannabis are those between the ages of 18 to 25, those who have completed high-school and/or college, and those with annual household incomes exceeding $75,000.
According to newly released figures by the Colorado Department of Revenue, retail sales of marijuana totaled just under $700 million in Colorado in 2014 – the first full year during which sales of marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes were allowed.