Democratics and Republicans Release Platforms on Pot...Sort Of

Update: The Republicans released their party platform draft late Monday, July 18. There is only one mention of marijuana in the entire document. While the passage calls for legal consistency between federal, state and local branches of government, the party language used is vague and indicates no clear direction on whether a Republican administration would emphasize either an enforcement-first approach or a more lenient position.

Speculation that Trump would appoint former prosecutor and current New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to the role of U.S. Attorney General, the nation's top lawyer, has cannabis activists wary of a Republican administration. Christie promised during the primary that his hypothetical administration would prosecute states like Colorado.

“If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it,” Christie warned. “As of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws.”

Trump himself has flip-flopped positions on legal weed, but lately has indicated that he would leave the decision up to the states. Despite this recent statement, given the historical stance the Republican party has taken on drugs, the ambiguity of the 2016 party platform, and the people in Trump's inner-circle, it's safe to assume The Donald could go any which way on legalization.

Democrats have adopted a platform that their members are trumpeting as the "most progressive platform in party history" — and when it comes to marijuana, Dems aren't just blowing smoke. The Party of the Donkey has taken a position on marijuana that no major political party in the United States has taken before.

Original story:

The preliminary draft of the platform, released on July 1 by the Democratic National Convention Committee, asserts that states should be "laboratories of democracy on the issue of marijuana."

It goes on to say states that wish to decriminalize marijuana should be allowed to do so.

"We support policies that will allow more research 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 marijuana possession among African Americans far outstripping arrest rates among whites, despite similar usage rates," the draft reads.

The closest that an American party has come to language like this was back in 1980, when Jimmy Carter initially voiced support for decriminalization, but backed off after a feverish backlash from Republicans.

The section about reforming laws to allow legal marijuana businesses to exist without uncertainty would require that the feds take weed off of the Schedule I narcotics list, a change that marijuana activists have made a priority for years and the Drug Enforcement Administration said it would consider this year.

Activists see this plank in the Democratic platform as a major victory. On July 13, the National Cannabis Industry Association testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, stating that "it's long past time for our government to bring marijuana policy into alignment with the science and allow states to regulate cannabis properly without federal interference."

During the 2016 Democratic primary, candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders took divergent tones on how to treat marijuana on the federal level.

Sanders's position tracked with the language adopted in the Democratic platform. He has a history of supporting legalization, and last year told Katie Couric: "Let me just say this: The State of Vermont voted to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, and I support that."

Hillary Clinton has taken a more cautious approach. “I do support the use of medical marijuana,” she said in the first Democratic presidential debate back in November 2015. “And I think 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.” 

Sanders, who endorsed and campaigned with Clinton last week after a long and combative primary, has had a heavy imprint on the document. Policy planks such as a public option in Obamacare and free college tuition for families making less than $125,000 a year were adopted right before Sanders delivered his long-withheld endorsement.

The drafting process featured passionate testimony from Sanders delegates, who won over party regulars on many policy positions. The sustained effort provided the Sanders cohort with victories to satisfy their supporters at home and produced a written statement to hold the Clinton wing of the party accountable.

While a party platform is not binding, per se, and many platform planks have been ignored in recent decades, the 2016 Democratic platform could well be a tool used to leverage Clinton's potential presidency — and this particular position shows a rapid and significant softening of attitudes toward marijuana.

The Republicans release their party platform draft on Tuesday.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.