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Dems Move Party Platform a Little Closer to Legalization

Published on July 11, 2016 · Last updated July 28, 2020

The Democratic Party heard the call of its constituents and took an unexpected step in support of cannabis reform last weekend, officially endorsing a “reasoned pathway to future legalization." The party also recommended cannabis be rescheduled under the Controlled Substances Act. 

The Democratic Platform Drafting Committee had earlier proposed a policy related to marijuana, but, as many cannabis supporters noticed (including the editorial team here at Leafly), the language lacked much oomph. It was tentative and tepid, choosing the safe mundanity of middle ground.

The amendment was so underwhelming, in fact, that Democrats such as U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer urged DNC platform members to take a stronger stand to end federal marijuana prohibition. 

The committee subsequently revisited an amendment that included more definitive language on cannabis reform. The amendment barely squeaked by, with 81 of 187 committee members voting in favor.

With 80 members opposed, however, the amendment remained in jeopardy. Arguments broke out among committee members, with many delegates of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders staunchly supporting the revised amendment. After much deliberation, former U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, a Hillary Clinton delegate, announced that opponents would agree to allow the new language. 

 Clinton Vows Tepid Leadership on Cannabis

Sanders supporters were also able to drum up enough support for a criminal justice amendment that addresses similar issues, including language to “end racial profiling that targets individuals based solely on race, religion, ethnicity and national origin.” 

The former DNC platform, in all its snoozeworthy glory, amounted to an 86-word shrug: 

“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 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 new amendment is not quite what we would have chosen to include, but it’s an improvement over the previous plank. 

The full text of the new amendment reads:

“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.”

It’s a start.

 The Democratic Party’s Cannabis Position Stinks. Here’s How We’d Change It.

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Lisa Rough
Lisa Rough
Lisa is a former associate editor at Leafly, where she specialized in legislative cannabis policy and industry topics.
View Lisa Rough's articles
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