Pubdate: Thu, 12 Nov 2015
Source: Boulder Weekly (CO)
Column: Weed Between the Lines
Copyright: 2015 Boulder Weekly
Author: Leland Rucker


Marijuana is all the rage these days.

Everybody is saying it's going to be a major campaign issue in 2016, 
as citizens in many states contemplate initiatives and begin to 
collect signatures to legalize medical and/or recreational cannabis.

Every presidential candidate is being grilled about it, and each has 
a different take. On the Republican side Rand Paul supports medical 
marijuana, access to banking services and the right for states to 
make their own choices. Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson and 
Lindsey Graham would be open to legalizing medical but not 
recreational marijuana. Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Rick Santorum 
oppose legalization of any kind, while Carly Fiorina stops at 
anything beyond decriminalization.

Personally, I'm still pulling for Chris Christie to become the 
Republican candidate, because I want the opportunity to witness a 
president leading federal troops into four states and the District of 
Columbia to enforce cannabis laws and imprison hundreds of thousands 
of Coloradans for growing, selling and partaking.

On a more serious note, Bernie Sanders fired the first real salvo 
into the campaign on Oct. 30 by introducing the Ending Federal 
Marijuana Prohibition Act in the Senate. It would remove cannabis 
from the list of controlled substances and allow states to run their 
own medical or recreational programs without interference from the 
DEA or anybody else above. It stops short of legalizing it 
nationwide, but it would send the message that marijuana should be 
controlled like alcohol.

One week later Hillary Clinton proposed that cannabis be moved from 
Schedule I to Schedule II under the pretense that it would make it 
easier to do research on medical marijuana here. It's a symbolic 
gesture. Schedule II includes drugs like cocaine, oxycodone and 
methamphetamine, all with a high potential for abuse, and keeping 
cannabis in the same league also keeps Drug-War funding in place. 
Clinton is tonedeaf to the idea of legalization but tolerant of 
states that have, so she has been forced to move about half a decimal 
point to the left.

The thing that fascinates me the most is that Sanders continues to be 
categorized as "radical," but this proposal, like much of what he 
champions, is much more in line with what voters are seeking than 
"mainstream" politicians like Clinton or the Republicans who go out 
of their way to appease their base. His cannabis plan is pretty 
conventional, especially as more Americans join the legalization 
bandwagon. It's not that he's radical; it's that he's more in touch 
with voters than the other candidates as well as the media that cover them.

On a hemispheric level, the U.S. is being symbolically squeezed from 
both directions. Up north, the new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, an 
admitted recreational cannabis user, won on a platform that included 
legalizing marijuana. His party holds a majority in the House of 
Commons, and polls indicate citizen support is about the same as here.

Perhaps even more incredible, Mexico's Supreme Court ruled on Nov. 4 
that individuals have a right to consume and cultivate marijuana. The 
decision only legally affects the plaintiffs in one case, but it sets 
a precedent that could lead to a country that decriminalized 
possession of all drugs in 2009 to now allow consumption of cannabis.

The judges sent a strong message. "The responsible decision taken to 
experiment with the effects of this substance - whatever personal 
harm it might do," they wrote, "belongs within the autonomy of the 
individual, protected by their freedom to develop themselves."

Yet here in the U.S., the War on Drugs continues.

A 68-year-old former physician faces five felonies after sheriff 's 
deputies in Buncombe County, North Carolina found 30 cannabis plants 
in his rented garage.

Gordon Piland, who calls himself a naturopath, has a medical license 
but lost it in the 1980s when police found marijuana plants during a 
raid. He provides cannabis to cancer patients, and since he is 
already well-known to authorities and the plants were in his garage, 
this is more about politics than law enforcement.

Such a waste. What Piland is doing is against the law in North 
Carolina, but really, should a 68-year-old be facing the rest of his 
life in prison for doing something that is legal in many states and 
does no harm to anyone else? And should the state be spending $30,000 
a year to incarcerate him? Most of us would answer no to both 
questions. But among all those presidential candidates, only the 
"radical" Bernie Sanders seems to be listening.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom