AIKEN, South Carolina — The Democratic presidential primary has become the host of the most vigorous, wide-ranging debate over marijuana politics in the recent history of the country.
The issue has become the latest policy divide between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, with Sanders saying an end to the federal prohibition on pot is a key component of creating a fairer criminal justice system, and Clinton taking a more cautious approach.
On Saturday, Clinton said it was time to reschedule marijuana, allowing for research into its medical properties that is currently banned.
"The problem with medical marijuana is there is a lot of anecdotal evidence about how well it works for certain conditions. But we haven't done any research. Why? Because it is considered that is called a schedule one drug and you can't even do research in it," Clinton said at a town hall in Orangeburg, South Carolina. "I would like to move it from what is called Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 so that researchers at universities, national institutes of health can start researching what is the best way to use it, how much of a dose does somebody need, how does it interact with other medications."
Clinton had not previously endorsed efforts to reschedule marijuana. Pro-marijuana activists generally see plans like Clinton's as missing the mark in terms of the difficulties in marijuana politics today, with some states having legalized the drug, others continuing to crack down on it and a federal government that has basically thrown up its hands. But activists reached by BuzzFeed News on Saturday generally praised Clinton's new stance, while also saying she didn't go nearly far enough.
Sanders shares that view.
“I am glad to see Secretary Clinton is beginning to address an issue that my legislation addressed,” Sanders said in a statement, “but her approach ignored the major issue. Secretary Clinton would classify marijuana in the same category as cocaine and continue to make marijuana a federally regulated substance."
“If we are serious about criminal justice reform and preventing many thousands of lives from being impacted because of criminal convictions for marijuana possession, we must remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act and allow states the right to go forward, if they choose, to legalize marijuana without federal legal impediments,” Sanders continued.