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The Next President Must End the War on Cannabis

An American Flag Flaps in the Breeze Under the Sun
Photo courtesy of D Williams

Joint Opinions

The Next President Must End the War on Cannabis

When the latest round of Democratic presidential candidates stepped out on to the stage in Nevada to give the American people a first-ever televised meet-and-greet with the political figures marred with certifiable delusions of changing the United States for the better, it was apparent from the beginning that the event had been secretly billed “The Hillary Clinton and the Bernie Sanders Show.” With the former First Lady positioned directly in the middle of a zoo of unpredictable political animals, the initial tone of the so-called debate suggested that at least one of the well-dressed snarling dogs would be eaten alive in front of millions of viewers before CNN had a chance to cut to commercial.

Although the debate never really ever entered the realm of bare-knuckle violence that the majority of the nation tuned in to see, there was a great deal of excitement resonating throughout the cannabis class when moderator Anderson Cooper revealed, before taking a short break, that the candidates would be forced to answer a question on the issue of marijuana reform. Unfortunately, this portion of the debate was not quite the interrogation that some of us would have liked.

Both Clinton and Sanders (none of the others had a chance to respond) were simply asked how they would vote for an initiative to bring a full-scale recreational cannabis industry to Nevada in 2016. While it was certainly encouraging to hear Sanders reveal that he would vote “yes” on the issue of allowing legal pot sales, Clinton’s retort was uninspiring at best, saying that she supports medical marijuana but is not ready to stand alongside the issue of launching recreational cannabis commerce.

The next day, however, during an interview with KUSA-TV in Denver, Clinton told reporters that she supported Colorado’s right to do whatever they wanted in regards to their cannabis laws because she wants “other states to learn… what works and what doesn’t work.”

It seems the issue of states’ rights in regards to marijuana reform has all of a sudden become what pot reformers and lawmakers are fighting for rather than placing focus on the big picture – putting an end to prohibition for all of the citizens of the United States. Several bills have already been introduced this year to the U.S. House of Representatives in an attempt to pass a law that stops the federal government from interfering in state cannabis laws. Meanwhile, some federal legislators are simply working on getting as few meager riders approved in hopes that they will be attached to a government spending bill for the next fiscal year, without any concern over just how worthless these types of temporary amendments have proved themselves to be in the grand scheme of national change.

It should go without saying that it is not enough for the 2016 presidential candidates to support each individual state’s right to establish marijuana laws of their own choosing. It is necessary at this juncture to seriously begin the discussion of how the next president plans to get the ball rolling on nationwide cannabis reform. Ideally, doing what the nation did with alcohol over 80 years ago and eliminate prohibition.

How Long Must the Great Colorado Marijuana Experiment Continue?

Hillary Clinton says she wants to continue monitoring Colorado’s recreational market to see what works and what doesn’t, but what more does she need? In the first year of retail sales, the state raked in around $70 million in tax revenue, most of which went towards schools and other state projects, while far less crime was reported across the board. Furthermore, the state has not erupted into a vile scene of fatal collisions and doped up baby killers since opening its doors to the cannabis community. Some of the latest statistics show that out of the more than 5,500 arrests made in 2014 for driving while intoxicated (alcohol, drugs, or both), only 354 (roughly 6 percent) of those cases were suspected of being caused by cannabis alone. There isn’t even enough evidence that stoned driving is enough of a problem to support the $1 million the state spent last year running their “Drive High, Get a DUI” campaign.

Legal Marijuana Comes With a Proven Economic Boost

What’s more is legal marijuana has created thousands of brand new jobs in Colorado alone – roughly 16,000 people licensed to work in the cannabis industry earning an average wage of $17 per hour. If Bernie Sanders is truly all about reestablishing the middle class, which he seems to be, he might want to get on board a plan to take the Colorado model nationwide.

But What About the Children?

Admittedly, there have been some reports of children being hospitalized after mistaken cannabis-infused edibles for candy, but statistically speaking, there are fewer of these types of incidents than those involving over the counter drugs and household cleaning products. In their annual report, the National Poison Data System revealed that the leading cause of poisoning in children under the age of 13 is Ibuprophen and Acetaminophen – causing in upwards of 40,000 to 50,000 cases each year. Cannabis is actually at the bottom of the list, far beneath common, legal items, including diaper cream, toothpaste, liquid fabric softener, tobacco and alcohol.

Is Prohibition Really Terminal?

Earlier this year, Representative Earl Blumenauer told C-SPAN that the recent support in the U.S. House of Representative for stripping power away from the Drug Enforcement Administration suggests that the War on Weed will be over in another five years. Other lawmakers, not to mention Willie Nelson, have predicted that cannabis will be legal at the federal level within the next decade – and we’ve been hearing that noise for about five years.

If the next President of the United States is one who insists on rolling down the same or similar path as President Obama, it seems unlikely that there will be enough momentum from the top to push the issue of federal reform to the next level in the 5-10 year timeframe. After all, while the leader of the free world cannot step inside the Oval Office and sign an Executive Order to end the nation’s prohibition standard, he or she can initiate the process in Congress.

We need a president who will stand up to the beast on Capitol Hill. When taking this into consideration, Bernie Sander’s answer to the question of supporting Nevada’s marijuana initiative in 2016 trumps anything that has come out of the mouth of Hillary Clinton over the past week. If elected, Sanders could be more open to initiating the repeal process, while Clinton seems more likely hold steady with the philosophies and actions of the current administration. And we simply cannot stomach another 4-8 years under leadership that simply take a “hands off approach” to state marijuana laws. We need concrete changes to be made.

Again, respecting states’ rights is not enough of a promise by any of the presidential candidates, regardless of their sworn political allegiance, to move this country in the direction that is needed to make solid advancements. Yet, marijuana reform groups and even regular supporters seem to have misplaced their passion for forging ahead with nationwide legalization and have settled instead for praising a candidate every time one tells the press that he or she does not have any intentions of tearing down the recreational pot markets if they are elected in 2016.

A lot of people have been bamboozled by Hillary Clinton’s celebrity status, some even suggesting that she won the debate because she showed the confidence of a president. But putting her in the White House is nowhere even close to what this country needs to emerge from the ditch we’ve been treading in for quite some time. Bernie Sanders supports the reestablishment of the middle class and cannabis has what it takes to boost the American middle class economy to a place unseen for many decades. But in order to make this happen, the United States government needs to allow the cannabis industry to become a contributor to the Gross National Product.

Respect states’ right, of course, but we have to do much more if marijuana advocates expect significant redemption in the next decade.

Will the next president legalize cannabis federally? Tell us what you think in the comments

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