Presidential Candidates Speak Out on Marijuana Legalization

February 5, 2016

The Medical Society queried all presidential candidates on four issues impacting Granite Staters health and wellbeing.  The following are answers from candidates who responded and were still actively in the race at the time of this posting. Responses to the other three questions will be featured over the next days leading up to the election.  NHMS encourages all physicians, PAs and students  to review their responses and take the Bartlett Jack Flip Challenge.  

Do you support or oppose the legalization of marijuana, and why?

Jeb Bush – "I do not support legalizing marijuana. While I believe states should decide their own policies, I believe legalizing marijuana will lead us down an incredibly slippery slope. Specifically, I am concerned about the subsequent public health costs associated with legalizing marijuana. Along with temporarily clouding one's judgment, the use of marijuana has been shown to have long-term, negative impacts on cognitive development and cognitive ability. The fact that marijuana use can permanently hinder adolescent brain development is particularly troubling and is one of many worthy reasons to restrict the availability of marijuana.

I also believe we should strive to give people a second chance. As Governor of Florida, I took the lead in developing drug courts, which addressed certain drug crimes through supervision, drug testing, and treatment, as an alternative to long prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders."

Chris Christie – "I’m opposed to legalizing marijuana. Absolutely opposed to legalizing marijuana and here’s why. We know from every study we’ve read out there that it has negative long-term effective on the brain’s ability to function, no question about it and any medical study you look at has shown that. Secondly, we know that it’s a gateway drug to other drugs – not for every person – not every person who has taken marijuana goes on to take cocaine or heroin but a lot of them do. And I don’t want to send a message, not only to our young people but to anybody in the country that it’s okay; it’s not."

Hillary Clinton – "I support the use of medical marijuana, and I support rescheduling marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II substance to advance greater research into its health benefits. I also support allowing states to be the laboratories of democracy on this, as long as they adhere to certain federal priorities such as not selling to minors, preventing intoxicated driving, and keeping organized crime out of the industry."

Bernie Sanders – "According to FBI crime data, in 2014 there were over 600,000 arrests for marijuana possession in the United States - more than one every minute. Meanwhile, marijuana use is now legal in four states and the District of Columbia. Though most arrests likely lead to a fine and not jail time, an arrest record still follows a person around for a lifetime, making it harder for a person to find a job or housing. It is an obscenity that we stigmatize so many young Americans with a criminal record for smoking marijuana, but not one major Wall Street executive has been prosecuted for causing the near collapse of our entire economy.

In my view, it is absurd that the federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, deeming it as dangerous, with no medical value and potentially as addictive as heroin, another Schedule I drug. In fact, under the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is considered more dangerous than oxycodone.

Thanks to these federal regulations, states that want to move ahead on marijuana legalization are in a precarious position. Shop owners cannot legally do business with banks and are still at risk of arrest from federal agents. Those patients who use marijuana for medical purposes could find that option taken away from them under a Republican president. This must change. It is time to take marijuana off of the federal list of controlled substances and give states the ability to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana without interference from the federal government.

I introduced a bill that would do just that. My bill would simply remove marijuana from the jurisdiction of the CSA. It would not legalize marijuana, but would place marijuana in the same legal category as alcohol and tobacco. States would be free to legalize or continue to ban it. But I would hope that states that keep simple marijuana possession illegal recognize that enforcing that law should be one of its lowest priorities and devote police resources to other matters."