Hillary Clinton Refuses to Evolve on Marijuana

Hillary Clinton is a self-confessed pragmatic progressive. In everyday parlance, that means she’s the type of person that likes to dip her toe in the pool before jumping in. There’s a lot to admire in a deliberative person like that. There’s also a lot to despise in someone that uses “pragmatism” to veil their political cowardice.

Unfortunately, Clinton continues to exhibit the latter when talking about marijuana. This is what she had to say on the subject last week on Jimmy Kimmel Live:

What the states are doing right now needs to be supported. And I absolutely support all the states that are moving toward medical marijuana, moving toward absolutely legalizing it for recreational use. But I want to see what the states learn from that experience, because there are still a lot of questions we still have to answer on the federal level.

There’s some great evidence about what marijuana can do for people who are in cancer treatment, who have other kinds of chronic diseases, who are suffering from intense pain…

I’m accepting information from everybody.

At the risk of mansplaining to the Secretary of State, here is some information which illustrates why she should reconsider her hesitant position on marijuana legalization:

Supporting legalization could tick the following political boxes then for Clinton:

  • Energize young people to vote for her. Which is something she could use going into the general election, as right now she only enjoys 37 percent of Democratic millennial support. She needs to give young people a reason to show up and vote for her – beyond telling them that they can refinance their student loans from 8% to 4%. YES WE CAN!
  • Cut down on a huge amount of unnecessary public money on the drug war
  • Confront racial injustice head on
  • Start to dismantle our prison-industrial complex
  • Show that she has the capacity to get out in front of a progressive issue

Clinton is right that weed needs to be removed from the list of Schedule I substances. Yet this move isn’t going to address the criminal elements of the issue. While scientists will spend years studying marijuana, millions of our people will continue to be put behind bars for a relatively innocuous drug. That comes at a cost. Not only through a loss of human capital, but also through our tax dollars. Our public infrastructure is crumbling and our government is deciding to spend our hard-earned dollars by locking up people over marijuana? This is insanity.

If this is what “pragmatism” yields, then color me disappointed. Hillary, please reconsider legalization. I know you’re not afraid of dramatically changing your position on tough issues. And this actually has the benefit of not only being popular, but also morally and politically correct.

Legalize it.

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Nick Cassella
Nick Cassella graduated from the University of St Andrews in Scotland in 2014. After graduating, he worked on the Initiative 594 campaign before joining Civic Ventures, where he now manages Civic Skunk Works' social media presence.