People around the country are praising the bold statement former President Bill Clinton made on cannabis while promoting his non-profit work with the Clinton Global Initiative on NBC’s Meet the Press this week, but nothing he said was either progressive or supportive of cannabis policy reform and shouldn’t be praised as such.
Clinton chose to tow the party line — Democrats claim to support “legitimate medical use” (and they will be sure to define “legitimate”) but they will not openly endorse the grand legalization “experiments” taking place in Washington or Colorado nor denounce the War on Drugs.
Meet the Press host David Gregory concluded his interview by asking for the former president’s stance on cannabis.
“I gotta ask this last question. Back in the ’60s there was that saying ‘Give peace a chance”, I am wondering if you think now it’s time to give pot a chance?”
Predictably, the entire audience laughed, including Clinton himself.
Gregory continued, “Would it actually help government raise revenue and deal with some of the things you are dealing with here at CGI [Clinton Global Initiative]?”
Clinton giggled and replied, “Rocky Mountain High?” in his signature Southern drawl, to which Gregory snickered.
“I think—look, I think there is a lot of evidence to argue for the medical marijuana thing, I think there are a lot of unresolved questions. But, I think we should leave it to the states, this is really a time they should be laboratories of democracy because nobody really knows where this is going. Are there adequate quality controls? There is pot and there is pot, what is in it? What’s gonna happen? There are all these questions. I think I like where it is now, if the state wants to try it they can and then they will be able to see what happens,” Clinton said.
The answer was dismissive although slightly conciliatory to a spike in national bipartisan support for the issue. What Clinton’s answer really failed to acknowledge is the real human and civil rights violations justified by the drug war, the desperation of sick people in states who won’t join the “state-level experiments” and the real economic repair legalized cannabis will do to the national economy.
What is known scientifically about the “medical marijuana thing” is that it is proven to be generally safe, safer than vice drugs like alcohol or tobacco, safer than prescription drugs, safer than fast food, sugar, the sun and pollution. We also know that anecdotal research as well as clinical trials outside the United States show that cannabis is likely benefiting people who suffer from chronic and fatal illnesses as well as those with mental disorders, the list of alleviated conditions is endless and continuing to grow.
What is also known is Clinton had a large hand in using drug use to infantilize the American public, violate citizens’ privacy and property rights and strip record number of Americans of their constitutional rights.
According to author and law professor Michelle Alexander, “As the Justice Policy Institute has observed, ‘the Clinton Administration’s ‘tough on crime’ policies resulted in the largest increases in federal and state prison inmates of any president in American history… During Clinton’s tenure, Washington slashed funding for public housing by $17 billion (a reduction of 61 percent) and boosted corrections by $19 billion (an increase of 171 percent), effectively making the construction of prisons the nation’s main housing program for the urban poor,” says Alexander in “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”
Clinton didn’t exactly answer Gregory’s questions either. If he had addressed each point with a clear understanding of the issue and all its ramifications, he would be forced to admit that economically cannabis has only ever been a boon to localities that have legalized sales.
Six months of legalized cannabis possession, production, use and sales in Colorado has proven to be an economic boon, one that paints a rosy picture of national policy reform. Nearly two decades of medical cannabis in California evidence the most dangerous thing about cannabis continues to be its prohibition.
So while marijuana continues to be a punch line to our presidents and former presidents, it’s a very real issue to Americans who want or need to inhale. American politicians should probably be beyond reluctant acceptance of “the medical marijuana thing” at this point and anything less should be considered a human rights violation.
Clinton should not be praised for his stance on the issue; he should be pushed to apologize to all the people whose lives were destroyed by his drug war policies and all the sick people who rely on medical cannabis in pursuit of happiness in their lives.
What do you think? Did Bill Clinton go far enough in his response? Tell us in the comments below.