By Phillip Smith
For the first time, a major US political party has embraced a strongly reformist platform plank on marijuana. Members of a panel of the Democratic National Committee Platform Drafting Committee approved the language last weekend.
It’s not as forthright as the position sought by committee members appointed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, who wanted language calling for the complete removal of marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act, but it is still a major step forward for a major political party.
Sanders supporters, led by environmentalist Bill McKibben, proposed a plank that read: “We will refocus our drug policy by removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and allowing states to set their own policies.”
But that language was quickly tabled, and after discussion among panel members, the panel unanimously adopted the following language:
“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 to be done 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 African-Americans far outstripping arrest rates among whites despite similar usage rates.”
The language is not yet set in stone — it still has to be approved by the full Platform Drafting Committee later this week and by the Democratic convention, set for July 25-28 — but given that it reflects the stance of presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton, it’s unlikely to change much between now and then.
The national Democratic Party is reflecting broader pot-reform currents in the party. According to an analysis by Marijuana.com, 12 state Democratic Party platforms, including California’s, are now calling for marijuana law reform, and Democratic lawmakers in the Congress are beginning to step up and support similar moves in Congress.
The Greens and the Libertarians have had good marijuana and drug policy platforms for years, but now, finally, a party that can actually win national elections is stepping up to the plate, if it a bit timidly.