Election Day is just weeks away, and being a presidential election, the turnout will be the highest of any election year, and Cannabis consumers across the country in multiple states will also be voting to legalize Cannabis for medicinal and recreational purposes. There are five states with recreational Cannabis on the ballot and four states with medical Cannabis on the ballot. If anyone of them pass, the majority of the country will have some sort of legal Cannabis. It will be interesting to see how this whole process rolls out under whoever is elected. Officially, the Cannabis Consumers Coalition supports decriminalization and we will be pushing for that regardless of who is elected. Full decriminalization will let creativity roam and be the best solution for a free, yet sensibly regulated, consumer-centric market.
The Cannabis Consumers Coalition does not endorse any single candidate, and this is being written to educate Cannabis consumers on the positions that candidates have on Cannabis. There is a lot of cagey rhetoric as the candidates dance around the issue and seek to provide some clarity on the stances that the candidates have, and the impact on the country and progress we have made ending cannabis prohibition. We have also included third-party candidates because we as an organization strive to be inclusive, even in politics, knowing that our members and merchant partners carry different views, with the common goal of freeing Cannabis from prohibition. As to be expected, major party candidates are taking the safe route to appease the broad spectrum of their voting base, and the third-party candidates (and their supporters), have been very vocal about their support for some sort of legalization or decriminalization. We focus heavily on Hillary Clinton, not because of her possibility of being elected president, but because she has recently been vocal about supporting changing cannabis from a Schedule I to a Schedule II narcotic on the Controlled Substance Act, and it’s important for cannabis consumers to know the implications of this designation.
Hillary Clinton has come out in favor for rescheduling Cannabis to Schedule II narcotic after a history of being “tough on drugs” during her husband’s presidential terms. A very important bill in being heard by the Judicial Committee in Congress called the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act, and is a federal bill that would reschedule Cannabis from a Schedule I to a Schedule II narcotic. While at the surface this seems a step forward in terms of easing restrictions on Cannabis research, if passed, a Schedule II designation at worst could set ending Cannabis prohibition back another 100 years. The bill states to respect state rights, and Clinton has said that she would allow current experiments in democracies continue, the reality is that Congress could easily pass in a bill a measure amend the bill to defund support for states with medical and recreational marijuana while increasing spending for federal enforcement of the Controlled Substance Act, and the pharmaceutical industry would benefit greatly from controlling cannabis, particularly in isolating cannabinoids and creating specific medications.
Worst still, rescheduling Cannabis to Schedule II would still be enforced by the Drug Enforcement Administration, and nothing, absolutely nothing, will change in terms of the unprecedented incarceration rates for nonviolent drug offenses, a problem her husband’s administration created. Supporting Schedule II is a very questionable stance for those who support decriminalization as well as for those who are want the drug war to end and to implement harm reduction policies that treat drug use as a health issue because it changes nothing with how it is enforced under the Controlled Substance Act.
To understand the importance of the risk of rescheduling cannabis to schedule II, it is important to understand the sordid past between Cannabis and the Controlled Substances Act. Prior to 1937, when the war on Cannabis effectively started, almost everyone with a plot of land grew hemp and Cannabis for practical and medicinal purposes. The Marijuana Tax Act was passed to curb that behavior and started demonizing the devil’s lettuce for political reasons to advance other special interests that Cannabis impeded. Fast forward to 1969, years into the counter-culture movement when the peace movement started, and people began questioning the status quo and their policies while protesting in the streets in massive groups demanding things like civil rights and peace, and smoking a lot of weed and experimenting with other hallucinogenic drugs in the process. In response to the counter-culture movement, Americans elected a very conservative (and very corrupt) president, Richard Nixon, who created the Controlled Substance Act, formed the DEA, and then added Cannabis, which was connected to the feared counter-culture, as a Schedule I narcotic, a category for drugs that are highly addicting with no medicinal value. Nixon did so against the advice of an advisory commission he set up himself, the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, also known as the Shafer Commission in 1972. Then began the highly racist and class-based abuse of civil and human right in our country’s history since Jim Crow and slavery.
The history of Cannabis prohibition is mired in corruption and special interest politics. In an age of transparency, it seems very short-sighted to hand off a plant to big pharma that someone can grow in their backyards and create even more regulations around, and therefor methods of enforcement. People want cannabis for recreational AND medical use and the best approach for that would be to continuing to allow states to be experiments in democracy, but to also pursue a federal approach that decriminalizes cannabis, or at minimum legalize and regulate it at a federal level that considers recreational and medical use. With Hillary’s reputation as purportedly coddling big business, it makes it tough for many Cannabis consumers to trust her motives in suggesting that Cannabis be dropped to a Schedule II and who could be lobbying her and her administration if she is elected into office.
With the history of cannabis regulations already mercilessly cutting out small businesses from the onset, and the longstanding history of big business in other industries wiping out the competition through the use of protectionist regulations, cannabis consumers also need to consider the new businesses and the impact Schedule II would have on them when heading to the polls. Overnight they could become subject to FDA approval processes for products that they claim are medicinal, processes that can take years and millions of dollars, and your favorite mom-and-pop shop or newly created infused product could be gone overnight. If Clinton is elected president, it will be critical for Cannabis consumers to write her administration and local lawmakers about the importance of decriminalization versus rescheduling to maintain the new industry that we helped to create.
Donald Trump has flip flopped on Cannabis through the years with supporting ending the war on drugs in the 1990s, to stating that he did not support Cannabis legalization in the beginning of his campaign to supporting medical Cannabis. It seems that politically he is being very careful so as to not appear too soft on drugs, nor impinge on individual freedom, which are both ends of the broad spectrum of Republican beliefs. There has been talk of him appointing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as Attorney General; however, Christie’s scandals do not make him the best candidate for AG. If Republicans stuck true to their belief in fiscal responsibility, they would be condemning the war on drugs as a failure, and those that are big on personal responsibility and individual liberty should align with the notion that people should be free to do whatever they please so long as they are causing no harm to others. On the other end is the religious right, and they traditionally support draconian drug policies. Playing it safe and not being very clear on where he is on Cannabis legalization definitely seems like a strategy to appease the entire base of the Republican Party.
Arguably the most cannabis friendly candidate in terms in individual freedom, Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico, is very much out in the open in his support for Cannabis legalization and was recently CEO of a Cannabis company called Cannabis Sativa, Inc. until he resigned to run for president. Libertarians believe that the market corrects itself and therefor do not support government made regulations, which in their opinion fosters government corruption. We at the Cannabis Consumers Coalition believe industry has shown to not correct itself and instead mislead the consumer to meet bottom lines, otherwise the Erin Brockovich’s of the world would not be exposing unethical businesses poisoning people. It was the same with Cannabis when some businesses were caught using chemical pesticides and lysing about being organic. A company’s marketing budget is on average 5-12% of a company’s sales, so that is potentially millions of dollars being paid to sway consumers in certain directions that may not be good for them, or the economy. Because of this, we believe that we need a balance of consumer representation and reasonable regulations that protect public safety.
Jill Stein, and the Green Party, support ending the drug war and are very vocal about it as it is one of their party platforms. They also support reforming our criminal justice system and implementing restorative justice over the current punitive justice that is not doing anything to help rehabilitate criminals. These are important issues to many cannabis consumers; however, the Green Party advocates socialism and their programs are federal and funded with tax dollars, similar to many countries in Europe with more robust socialist programs that we have here in the United States. Many cannabis consumers are supporters of the Green Party, which saw more converts from people disappointed that Bernie Sanders did not receive the presidential nominee. Many cannabis consumers are also Libertarians, so Jill Stein will be far too left for their taste, and definitely far too tax-and-spend for Republican cannabis consumers.