Politics 

The latest in cannabis legalization including laws and policies, legislators’ views, election coverage, and more.

How Has Hillary Clinton’s Position on Cannabis Evolved Throughout Her Career?

Hillary Clinton, the current Democratic frontrunner for the 2016 presidential election, has been watching Bernie Sanders, easily her strongest competitor for the nomination, as he has embraced cannabis legalization as a campaign platform that's been met with widespread acclaim and approval from the masses. Lo and behold, within a week after Sanders proposed his overarching plan to reform federal policy on cannabis, she made her own announcement.

Clinton proposed reclassifying cannabis from a Schedule I drug (meaning that it has no accepted medical usage) to Schedule II (which means that it does have limited medical usage). Making such a move would allow for much more comprehensive medical research on a federal level.

Support for the legalization of cannabis is at an all-time high in America and, while it’s admirable that Ms. Clinton has taken action to embrace the will of the people, in past statements and comments, she has shied away from endorsing any legalization or decriminalization measures. Clinton has never tried cannabis, (“I didn’t do it when I was young, I’m not going to start now,” she says), but for the first time, she’s changed her tune about outwardly supporting cannabis research. In the words of an astute Saturday Night Live observation, this support could have come just a liiiiiittle bit sooner.

Let’s take a look at some quotes from Hillary Clinton’s past record on cannabis:

1996:

“Casual attitudes towards marijuana and minors’ access to cigarettes raise the likelihood that teenagers will make a sad progression to more serious drug use & earlier sexual activity.”

Hmmm….the “gateway theory.” Not particularly original, and it has since been disproved many times over.

2000:

“I have spoken out on my belief that we should have drug courts that would serve as alternatives to the traditional criminal justice system for low-level offenders. If the person comes before the court, agrees to stay clean, is subjected to drug tests once a week, they are diverted from the criminal justice system. We need more treatment. It is unfair to urge people to get rid of their addiction and not have the treatment facilities when people finally makes up their minds to get treatment.”

That’s better! Stop treating drug addicts like criminals and get them the help they deserve. (No comment on cannabis, though…)

2007:

"I don't think we should decriminalize [marijuana]. But we ought to do research (into) what, if any, benefits it has."

This is starting to sound more familiar, like the Hillary we all know today.

2012:

"I respect those in the region who believe strongly that [U.S. legalization] would end the problem. I am not convinced of that, speaking personally. I think you can, with a comprehensive strategy succeed in certainly pushing back the tide of violence and corruption that drug trafficking brings. Ultimately, it's about providing greater opportunity, greater education, greater economic jobs and growth to a population so that they can have a real stake in their society and be partners with their government.”

Ah yes, the ultra-cautious vague Clinton response. It’s a delicate balance of noncommittal buzzwords and undefined promises.

2014:

"Honestly, I don't think we've done enough research yet to say what the effects are and what they could be on different people with different physical or psychological issues, different ages — yes, medical first and foremost, we ought to be doing more to make sure that we know how marijuana would interact with other prescription drugs and the like. But we also have to know how even medical marijuana impacts our kids and our communities…

So I'm a big believer in acquiring evidence, and I think we should see what kind of results we get, both from medical marijuana and from recreational marijuana before we make any far-reaching conclusions… I think the feds should be attuned to the way marijuana is still used as a gateway drug and how the drug cartels from Latin America use marijuana to get footholds in states, so there can't be a total absence of law enforcement, but what I want to see, and I think we should be much more focused on this, is really doing good research so we know what it is we're approving.”

This is a much more satisfying, albeit still somewhat vague and noncommittal, response on the question of marijuana legalization and how it should be treated.

2015:

“What I do want is for us to support research into medical marijuana because a lot more states have passed medical marijuana than have legalized marijuana, so we have two different experiences or even experiments going on right now.

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…I would like to move it from what is called Schedule I to Schedule II 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.”

That’s more like it.

As we can see from her past record, Clinton has never vocally supported cannabis decriminalization, but she’s always supported more research, clinging to the notion during debates when the "dreaded" cannabis question arose. This proposal is a great start, and the concept echoes the CARERS Act, which would reschedule cannabis and legalize medical marijuana on a federal level.

Sanders, on the other hand, not only has made campaign promises to end the War on Drugs, he has actually taken steps to end prohibition. The proposal that inspired Clinton to open up about marijuana, the “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2015,” would completely remove any mention of marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, effectively removing any and all criminality associated with cannabis on a federal level.

Nevertheless, Clinton's recent attitude shift could bring a new wave of supporters to her campaign and increase her chances of winning the Democratic nomination.

What do you think? Is this Hillary’s time to shine or is she just jumping on the cannabis bandwagon?

Learn more about Hillary Clinton's and Bernie Sanders' thoughts on cannabis, as well as the other 2016 presidential candidates.

How Would a Hillary Clinton Presidency Affect the Cannabis Movement?

Bernie Sanders Wants to End the War on Drugs: Could He Pull It Off as the Next President?

 Legalize It? Your Canna-Friendly Guide to the First 2016 Democratic Debate