Great Britain Reclassifies Pot: Where Do Our Candidates Stand?

It's official. Effective today, Great Britain has reclassified and downgraded marijuana. Instead of being a class B drug like amphetamines, it is a class C drug like tranquilizers and steroids. Possession of small amounts results in an on-the-spot warning.

Under the reclassification, the possession, production and supply of marijuana are still illegal, but the penalties are different. Adults found carrying the drug are now more likely to receive a warning than a prison sentence. And the maximum prison sentence for possession has dropped from five to two years. Legally, this brings Britain in line with some European countries such as the Netherlands, although in practice these laws are likely to be more strictly enforced in Britain.

At least in Britain, reefer madness is slowly giving way to acceptance that marijuana does have medical benefits:

...the drug may have positive effects for some. Marijuana is thought to dull chronic pain and may ease the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS), an incurable disease of the nervous system that causes spasms, pain and tremor.

In a recent large-scale trial, 60% of MS patients who took synthetic cannabis said it helped their mobility and eased their pain and muscle stiffness. "It doesn't suit everyone, but it does suit some," says Clare Hodges, MS sufferer and founder of the Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics, a pressure group that lobbies for the medicinal use of marijuana. About 10,000 seriously ill patients in Britain use cannabis to control their symptoms, says Hodges. Sufferers tend to smoke or eat the drug.

A leading British criminologist gives the reasons why the downgrading should be extended to small home growers.

How do our presidential candidates stack up on the issue? Check out NORML's presidential score card and find out where they stand on decriminalization, on medical use and on the Higher Education Act provision that prevents convicted marijuana offenders from receiving student aid.

John Kerry scores the highest of the viable candidates. He is the only candidate expressing any support for medical marijuana:

Kerry is on record voicing mild support for the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Speaking in January 2004 at the New Hampshire College Convention, Kerry said he opposed federally prosecuting medical marijuana patients who reside in states that have legalized its use. However, Kerry stopped short of endorsing marijuana's therapeutic use, stating (as summarized by the Associated Press), "he wanted to wait for the completion of a study to see what other alternatives might be available ... before deciding whether to legalize it in all states."

He has voiced support for non-prosecution of those caught with small amounts of marijuana for personal use--but not decriminalization. He supports exempting users from the HEA ban on student aid, but not a total repeal of the provision.

Clark and Dean have expressed support only for the repeal of the HEA ban--not for decriminalization or medical pot. Edwards has refused to say where he stands on the HEA ban, and has not supported decriminalization or medical pot, although he said he would commission a study on the latter. As Governor of Vermont, Dean strongly opposed legislation in 2002 to exempt medical marijuana patients from state criminal penalties.

< George McGovern Interview | Minn. Governor Pushes to Reinstate Death Penalty >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Decreasing drug classification of marijuana (none / 0) (#1)
    by ryanhall43 on Thu Aug 07, 2008 at 03:41:48 PM EST
    Moving away from criminalization is a huge step in the right direction. The public health issue is what has always been at stake here. These people were never criminals, they were people who found themselves on the wrong side of the law. Those who abuse marijuana have always needed treatment, not huge fines and jail sentences. Those who are currently being prevented from student financial aide should have some sort of exemption attached, such as completing a treatment program allows them to receive student aide. Barring them from financial aide only adds to the number of uneducated individuals we have in the world which is bad for the economy. Degrading marijuana to less of an offense and offering health services for those caught as opposed to jail sentences is the step we need to take.
    Drug Addiction Treatment Center