Should Marijuana Legalizers Worry About Clinton’s Wall Street Speeches?

Hillary Clinton Pointing
"I believe the states should be the laboratories of democracy, because it gets me off the hook for taking a national position."


Hillary Clinton Simulator
What was a popular Beltway position on marijuana legalization after two months of one legal state’s sales isn’t as popular after nine states have legalized.

While most of the media was focused on the Republican presidential nominee’s casual admission of committing sexual assaults, some noticed that WikiLeaks has released supposed transcripts of Hillary Clinton’s $225,000 speeches to Wall Street bankers. One excerpt has gotten traction for revealing Clinton to be a two-faced politician saying one thing to voters and another to donors:

“If everybody’s watching, you know, all of the backroom discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous, to say the least. So you need both a public and a private position,” Mrs. Clinton said in an April 2013 address.

Digging deeper, another excerpt from March 2014 has been seized upon by supporters of marijuana law reform that shows Clinton to be hostile to the cause. Speaking with Xerox’s CEO, Clinton uses a stock metaphor, where “shorting” a stock means betting against it and hoping to make money when it crashes, to explain her stance on legalization.

URSULA BURNS: So long means thumbs up, short means thumbs down; or long means I support, short means I don’t. I’m going to start with — I’m going to give you about ten long-shorts.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Even if you could make money on a short, you can’t answer short.

URSULA BURNS: You can answer short, but you got to be careful about letting anybody else know that. They will bet against you. So legalization of pot?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Short in all senses of the word.

Hillary Clinton Logo
Y’know, a red arrow pointing rightward is a little too on-the-nose to represent Hillary Clinton, don’t you think?

So despite Clinton having indicated she is in support of cannabis rescheduling, accepting of medical marijuana, and taking a wait-and-see approach to ongoing state-by-state legalization, some have now questioned if those are her “public positions” and whether the “private position” she explained to Xerox is really her feelings on the matter.

Further complicating the issue are remarks made last month by her daughter, Chelsea Clinton, who suggested to an audience in Colorado that marijuana had killed people.

“We also have anecdotal evidence now from Colorado where some of the people who were taking marijuana for those purposes, the coroner believes, after they died, there was drug interactions with other things they were taking.”

She walked back those remarks the next day, but that didn’t stop some in the media from mistaking Chelsea’s gaffe for an official policy position from her mother.


Marijuana Is Destroying Hillary Clinton

Donald Trump has gained the lead in Colorado after Hillary Clinton promised to be harder on marijuana laws. At a recent rally, Chelsea Clinton said that her mother would invoke tougher federal laws on marijuana.

chelsea clinton cannabis
“After my dad became the poster boy for pot presidents, d’ya think I would ever try or have a clue about marijuana?”

While there are no transcripts I can find online of Chelsea’s full remarks, every media report I can find on her September 29 remarks refers to the “marijuana can kill” comments. I think if Chelsea had said her mother would “invoke tougher federal laws on marijuana”, that would have gotten some headlines.

If people are just now shocked that Hillary Clinton is a typical politician who says one thing in public and another in private, they’ve got the same level of political instinct as those who are shocked that Donald Trump is a sleazebag chauvinist. But are these remarks really cause for worry or, worse, a vote for Donald Trump or someone else who cannot beat Donald Trump?

#MJElectionNight Hashtags
After Hillary Clinton is elected, 1/5th of the US population and Electoral Votes may have legal marijuana.

Consider the timing. Clinton’s remarks to Xerox were in March 2014. Colorado’s first legal marijuana sale happened just two months before that. Washington’s first legal sales wouldn’t take place for another four months. Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia legalizing marijuana wouldn’t happen for another eight months.

In the interim, we’ve seen Colorado post nearly $1 billion in marijuana sales. Congress has twice passed appropriations amendments barring federal interference with state marijuana laws. Bipartisan support (including Sen. Lindsey Graham [R-SC]!) is increasing in Congress for the CARERS Act, which would make permanent the protection of state medical marijuana laws from the feds, allow for marijuana industry banking, and allow VA doctors to recommend cannabis to veterans.

The Department of Treasury even advised banks they’re allowed to work with marijuana industry clients just a month before Clinton’s alleged remarks to Xerox. The bankers want that source of revenue and are only balking because of the federal prohibition.

“We quite clearly say that it is possible to provide financial services to state-regulated marijuana businesses and still be in compliance with Bank Secrecy Act obligations,” said a senior official at the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network…

“While we appreciate the efforts by the Department of Justice and FinCEN, guidance or regulation doesn’t alter the underlying challenge for banks,” said Frank Keating, president of the American Bankers Association, an industry lobbying group. “As it stands, possession or distribution of marijuana violates federal law, and banks that provide support for those activities face the risk of prosecution and assorted sanctions.”

Hillary Clinton Pointing
“I believe the states should be the laboratories of democracy, because it gets me off the hook for taking a national position.”

I don’t worry about Clinton’s remarks two-and-a-half years ago because there’s something I can always count on her to do: change her mind when her position becomes politically unpopular. Clinton is never going to be a leader on this issue. Like most issues, her default position will be the one that gets her campaign donations and more votes.

Remember how her position on the Iraq War was to give George W. Bush a blank check to invade and conquer? That became publicly unpopular and she changed her position to say “it was a mistake”. Remember how her position on marriage was that it “is a sacred bond between one man and one woman”? That became publicly unpopular and she changed her position after states legalized gay marriage, then the Supreme Court affirmed it. Remember how she championed the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal as the “gold standard”? That became publicly unpopular and she changed her position after Bernie Sanders hammered her on it.

Legalization Polls 1969-2016
The last 21 national polls in a row have shown more support than opposition to legalization, with 18 of those 21 showing a majority support legalization.

The last 21 national polls in a row have shown more support for legalization than prohibition, with 18 of those showing majority support. Clinton made her Xerox remarks when only one legal state had sold two months’ worth of legal weed. Clinton will take office in a country that is likely to have just legalized marijuana in five more states and recognized medical use in three more states. Clinton will also likely win only by a plurality popular vote, with legalization supporters Jill Stein and Gary Johnson having siphoned off the votes from the progressive Democratic base that would have given her a majority mandate, leaving her desperate to shore up progressive votes against a primary challenge in 2020.

Hillary Clinton Donald Trump Cartoon
“Geez, the CIA pilots that Bill let land in Mena sniffled less than this guy!”

There would be no political upside for President Hillary Clinton to bring the federal hammer down on state legalization. Big Pharma’s campaign donations couldn’t buy enough TV ads to soothe voters from California and the rest of the impacted medical and legal states. She can’t afford to lose support of Democratic congresspeople from those states when she’ll already be facing a hostile obstructionist Republican majority. Like President Obama, Clinton will find that standing aside and letting the states lead on marijuana reform is the position least likely to endanger any of her political capital.

Besides, the only other person who could become president is Donald Trump. The idea that he would provide a better opportunity for national marijuana legalization is debatable, but even if that were true, his temperament, ignorance, incoherence, racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, ablism, misogyny, cheating, defrauding, disrespect, dishonor, and treason more than outweigh his multiple conflicting stands on marijuana reform. Plus, his vice president, Mike Pence, is the guy who’d really be running the country, and he’s virulently anti-pot.

Russ Belville
About Russ Belville 199 Articles
Russ Belville - or "Radical" Russ, as he is known on-air - hosts The Marijuana Agenda, a live news and talk radio program for the cannabis community, weekdays at 3pm Pacific on  The show is based in Portland, Oregon, but "Radical" Russ has traveled over 300,000 air miles in the past five years, bringing his show to report live from hundreds of cannabis conferences, marijuana expos, hemp festivals, and legalization events in over 70 North American cities.