Hillary Rodham Clinton has eased her stance on marijuana use, but activists say the move is merely "symbolic" and her presidential rival, Bernie Sanders, claims that she has ignored the real issue.
For a long time, Clinton has opposed the federal legalization of marijuana for recreational or medical purposes, the Washington Post reported. Marijuana remains classified by the DEA as a Schedule 1 drug, which has far-reaching implications.
Firstly, the classification criminalizes it and sends crowds of people to prison for use or possession. Secondly, it prevents marijuana's health benefits from being adequately studied. Hillary's announcement Saturday to move marijuana from a Schedule 1 drug to a Schedule 2 is meant to address the latter issue.
"We haven't done research, why? Because it's considered a Schedule 1 drug," Clinton said Saturday.
In a previous interview, Hillary Clinton noted that "I do support the use of medical marijuana. Even there we need to do a lot more research so that we know exactly how we're going to help people for whom medical marijuana provides relief."
In this category, it's incredibly difficult to conduct research on marijuana, and Hillary Clinton also plans to lift restrictions on obtaining it for medical studies and let researchers get it through licensed suppliers in states where it's already legal.
Right now, science doesn't have a clear picture of marijuana's benefits and risks, because they haven't been able to study it. Hillary Clinton noted that researchers need to determine what dosages are safe, the effectiveness of certain strains, and drug interactions. They also need to figure out the long-term effects of marijuana's main, psychoactive ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), Raw Story added.
Hillary Clinton still hasn't jumped on board the option to declassify it altogether, opting instead to let the 23 states who've legalized it so far work through the consequences before legalizing it nationwide. Hillary has said that in the greater issue of federal marijuana legalization, the states are "laboratories of democracy."
"I want to see how it works before we do a national plan," Hillary Clinton noted.
But Clinton's plan to make marijuana a Schedule 2 drug doesn't make the situation much better, her critics contend. It would still be considered dangerous, sitting next to its fellows in the category -- Oxycodone and cocaine. And both users and businesses would still risk penalties for its use and sale.
Marijuana Majority Chairman Tom Angell called Hillary Clinton's announcement a "symbolic move... It may make research slightly easier, but on its own wouldn't do anything to protect seriously ill people who are using marijuana in accordance with state laws from being harassed by the DEA."
And as far as political rival Bernie Sanders is concerned, Clinton has brushed aside the real issue with marijuana's Schedule 1 classification -- its criminalization. According to BuzzFeed, he said Hillary's declassification plan doesn't go far enough because ending its federal prohibition instead would result in a fairer criminal justice system.
"I am glad to see Secretary Clinton is beginning to address an issue that my legislation addressed, but her approach ignored the major issue. Secretary Clinton would classify marijuana in the same category as cocaine and continue to make marijuana a federally regulated substance. If we are serious about criminal justice reform and preventing many thousands of lives from being impacted because of criminal convictions for marijuana possession, we must remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act and allow states the right to go forward, if they choose, to legalize marijuana without federal legal impediments."Hillary Clinton said her marijuana proposal is part of her plan for criminal justice reform and has urged changes to mandatory minimum sentences.
Sanders is the only candidate who supports decriminalizing marijuana on a national level, and letting states decide individually how to classify the drug, if at all.
What do you think of Hillary's announcement?
[Photo By Scott Olson / Getty Images]