A board for the Democratic National Committee, responsible for drafting the Democratic party’s platform each year, approved a proposal to include marijuana reform.
The Democratic National Committee panel has included marijuana law reform on the party’s official 2016 platform.
In a statement last month, the DNC announced that it would be officially in support of cannabis legislation changes, distinguishing three specific key points that they will stand behind throughout the election season. The party will support the elimination of criminal penalties associated with marijuana possession, the removal of legislative barriers that prevent studies into the therapeutic properties of cannabis, and pledge to back states that elect to legalize adult use cannabis.
“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 to be done 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,” the Democratic Party said in a statement.
The announcement was relatively surprising, as it was just earlier this year that DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz told The New York Times that marijuana should not be legalized because she considers it a gateway drug.
While the DNC’s endorsement for marijuana reform should not be taken lightly, the party’s stance does fall short of the wishes of most cannabis advocates. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, for example, just recently urged supporters to become more heavily involved in pushing various key issues, including to “Remove Marijuana From The Federal Controlled Substances Act.”
At the recent Democratic Platform Drafting hearing in St. Louis, Bill McKibben, a panel member appointed by Sanders, encouraged the party to amend the federal drug policy.
“This is one of these issues where society has largely made up its mind, like gay marriage, and now it’s time for politicians and political institutions to catch up with them,” McKibben told the committee. “The idea that marijuana is maintained in federal policy as a drug equivalent to heroin or cocaine or methamphetamine is not only silly, it’s also damaged millions of lives at this point as people have had to cope with the repercussions of that unsound federal policy. We’ve begun to see experimentation in states with good effect, and it’s important that the federal government let that experimentation continue in full without any of the problems that are caused by marijuana continuing to be a federally scheduled drug.”
At least 12 state Democratic Party platforms are officially in support for marijuana law reform, according to a recent analysis by Marijuana.com. Just last month, the California Democratic Party endorsed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), which if passed by voters in November will legalize adult use marijuana within the state.