Legal marijuana may reach many parts of the country sooner, thanks to a decision by the Democratic Party to support the idea.

Democratic Party DonkeyThe platform drafting committee of the Democratic National Committee voted in July to add text to the party platform that would call for a rescheduling of cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Downgrading the drug’s listing under that law would open the door to widespread legalization and an end to federal marijuana prohibition.

The decision was a big victory for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and his supporters. Sanders, who lost to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries, pushed during his campaign for a rescheduling that would give states greater freedom to legalize and make the drug more readily available to researchers.

He filed a bill in the Senate that would have accomplished that goal, though it has since stalled there and stands little chance of passing unless Democrats take back Congress in November. After his loss in the primaries became clear, Sanders turned to pressuring the party to adopt his approach.

Cannabis ranked schedule 1 of CSA

The Controlled Substances Act, passed during the Nixon administration, lists controlled substances in several schedules, starting with schedule 1. That category includes the drugs the federal government considers most dangerous, most addictive, and least medically useful. Heroin and LSD are also included on schedule 1.

Moving pot to a lower schedule, such as 2 or 3, would make it easier for scientists to obtain samples of it for studies. The DEA now makes it extremely difficult for researchers to study anything other than the drug’s alleged harms.

Rescheduling also would allow doctors to formally prescribe marijuana, if only for a very limited number of conditions. Because the FDA and DEA control prescribing practices in the United States, physicians must “recommend” cannabis to patients rather than writing an actual prescription.

DEA to decide on rescheduling in coming months

Marijuana LeafIt is also possible marijuana could be removed from the law entirely, which would allow states or even Congress to legalize the drug at their pleasure. The DEA is expected to announce by August whether it will reschedule or deschedule cannabis within the next several months, but the odds of that eventuality aren’t good.

That leaves Congress as the only means of moving pot from schedule 1. The Democratic Party’s official support of that approach makes it more likely lawmakers – if not the DEA – will finally remove marijuana from that restrictive category, especially if Clinton wins the White House and Democrats gain control of both houses of Congress. That’s unlikely but far from impossible.

The DNC platform committee had initially voted to add platform text that merely encouraged freedom for states to make their own cannabis policy. Now, assuming delegates at the Democratic National Convention later in July approve the platform as written, as they are likely to do, the text will push for a “reasoned pathway” to legalization:

“Because of conflicting laws concerning marijuana, both on the federal and state levels, we encourage the federal government to remove marijuana from its list as a Class 1 Federal Controlled Substance, providing a reasoned pathway for future legalization.”

The text didn’t go as far as some committee members wanted, as it called on the government only to move marijuana to a lower schedule, not to remove it from the Controlled Substances Act completely.

Leave a comment: Does it make any difference for stoners that the Democratic Party is finally pushing for legalization of marijuana? Why?


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