MPP has been paying close attention to the slate of candidates running for president next year. Marijuana policy reform has been coming up more and more as the hopefuls try to adjust to increasing public support for ending prohibition, but could the issue have an impact on who is the next leader of the United States?
Last night, MPP’s Dan Riffle spoke with Fox News about how marijuana initiatives could affect the 2016 presidential election.
This poll also shows that support for state freedom in determining marijuana policy is non-partisan and has taken hold among Republicans as well as Democrats and Independents. 64% of Iowa Republicans and 67% of New Hampshire Republicans are in favor of the next president respecting state marijuana laws.
President Obama announced on Monday that he was commuting the sentences of 46 federal drug offenders, more than doubling the number of nonviolent criminals to whom he has granted clemency since taking office.
“These men and women were not violent criminals, but the overwhelming majority had been sentenced to at least 20 years; 14 of them had been sentenced to life for nonviolent drug offenses, so their punishments didn’t fit the crime,” Mr. Obama said in a video released on the White House Facebook page, in which he is shown signing the commutation letters. “I believe that America, at its heart, is a nation of second chances, and I believe these folks deserve their second chance.”
Mr. Obama’s action on Monday brought the total number of commutations he has issued to 89, exceeding that of any president since Lyndon B. Johnson, who commuted 80 sentences during his tenure. It also meant that he has commuted more sentences than the last four presidents combined.
While it is unclear how many of those people were in prison for marijuana charges, this is a good sign that the administration, and the greater public, is open to substantive drug policy and criminal justice reform.
Most marijuana arrests do not result in jail time, but the collateral consequences can be still negatively impact a person for life.
However, there are a number of people serving long sentences for nonviolent marijuana offenses, some of them for life. The Department of Justice needs to reexamine these cases immediately.
Last Friday, MPP released the 2016 Presidential Candidates Report Card, which grades the various major candidates based on their support for marijuana policy reform or the willingness to allow it to move forward. Since then, a wide variety of news outlets have written about it, including The New York Times, Huffington Post, Washington Times, and others. In particular, there was quite a bit of interest in Republican Sen. Rand Paul receiving the highest grade of any candidate: A-.
Mr. Paul, received a grade of “A-” from the Marijuana Policy Project. The group said his grade was based largely on his sponsorship of a medical marijuana bill, support for reducing marijuana-related penalties and support for allowing states to regulate marijuana for adult use.
Mr. Christie and Mr. Santorum, meanwhile, two other GOP contenders, both received a grade of “F” “because they oppose reform efforts and they are the most vocal supporters of enforcing federal prohibition laws in states that have made marijuana legal,” the group said.
“Some of these guys who tout states’ rights, fiscal responsibility, and getting the government out of people’s private lives want to use federal tax dollars to punish adults for using marijuana in states that have made it legal,” said Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the group. “They say using marijuana is immoral or just too dangerous to allow, but serve alcohol, a more dangerous substance, at their fundraisers. The hypocrisy is astonishing.”
In a CNN special to be aired on Sunday, not only will President Barack Obama state his full support of medical marijuana, he’ll also advocate for alternative models of drug abuse treatment which don’t involve incarceration.
The television special, called “Weed 3,” features CNN’s chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon who came to support medical marijuana after reviewing the evidence. This time around, he’ll be delving into the politics of medical marijuana research and interviewing President Barack Obama, according to an email obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Obama has previously predicted that more states will follow the lead of Washington and Colorado in legalizing recreational marijuana, and confirmed that although marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, the Department of Justice will look the other way.
Last week, former President of Mexico and well-known marijuana reform advocate Vicente Fox told reporters that Mexico could legalize marijuana within the next five years.
Fox said that although Mexico’s current leader, President Enrique Pena Nieto, has stated his opposition to legalizing marijuana, impending legalization efforts in key U.S. states could force Mexico to follow their lead. “Once California gets into this,” Fox said, “Mexico is going to speed up its decision process.”
During Fox’s presidency from 2000 to 2006, he was tasked with battling Mexico’s powerful drug cartels. The country’s various efforts to hinder the cartels, including ramping up military attacks, have so far been unsuccessful and have resulted in even more bloodshed. By some estimates, the death toll for casualties of Mexico’s drug war has reached 100,000.
In response to the failure of traditional government tactics, Fox has become a staunch advocate for reforming drug laws, arguing that prohibition has been responsible for creating and sustaining the deadly gang activity. In addition to speaking out publicly against prohibition, Fox has been involved in political advocacy. Earlier this month, the former President met with marijuana reform advocates in San Francisco to discuss the formation of an international partnership dedicated to decriminalizing and regulating marijuana.
Although polls in Mexico reveal little popular support for marijuana legalization, there are pockets of strong support. One of Mexico’s major political parties recently announced its plan to introduce legislation that would make marijuana legal in Mexico City.
Singer, poet, public speaker, and talk show host Henry Rollins has joined the growing ranks of public figures who support ending marijuana prohibition.
Rollins is not a marijuana user, either. As more and more people realize that marijuana prohibition is a harmful failure, the myth that only potheads want to make it legal is continuing to fade into the hazy realm of reefer madness.
This should come as no surprise by now, but President Obama has once again failed to address questions about the need for marijuana policy reform in a public forum. Once again, this issue was among the most popular, but it seems that after laughter, disagreement, and capitulation, the president’s responses are wearing thin, and the question will no longer be asked or answered.
As you no doubt have heard by now, all four U.S. attorneys in California announced on Friday that they plan to aggressively target state-legal medical marijuana providers for violations of federal law. With virtually no justification, the Obama administration is going to deny patients safe access to their medicine and force them back into the criminal market.
This new development is especially disturbing, considering President Obama’s previous position: In 2009, based on an earlier campaign pledge, his Justice Department issued a memo declaring that individuals acting in compliance with state medical marijuana laws would not be prosecuted. Now, the president has gone back on his word.
1. In 1970, Nixon signed into law the Controlled Substances Act, which placed marijuana in Schedule I — the most restrictive of the five schedules, which declared that marijuana has no medical value whatsoever. Since then, all seven presidents have been content to keep marijuana in Schedule I, even going so far as to have (1) DEA bureaucrats overrule the DEA’s own administrative law judge on the matter, and (2) Health & Human Services reject scientific petitions for rescheduling.
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"Marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care. ... It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record."
"There is no logical basis for the prohibition of marijuana."
"The amount of money and of legal energy being given to prosecute hundreds of thousands of Americans who are caught with a few ounces of marijuana in their jeans simply makes no sense - the kindest way to put it. A sterner way to put it is that it is an outrage, an imposition on basic civil liberties and on the reasonable expenditure of social energy."