Written by Sarah M. Cohen

Mary’s Prime Time Blog recently asked contributor Sarah M. Cohen to attend the annual meeting of Students for Sensible Drug Policy in Chicago. The next few blogs will contain Sarah’s reports from that meeting. — Alice O’Leary Randall, editor.

The Students for Sensible Drug Policy Policy (SSDP) organization’s position on cannabis is multifaceted and nuanced.  Cannabis gets top billing as the first point in their 2019 Federal Policy Agenda: “End federal cannabis prohibition with reparative justice measures.” So, not only does SSDP note, “[i]t is time to harmonize federal law with evolving state approaches,” the organization also calls on the federal government to take, “steps to encourage states to adopt cannabis laws which repair the harms created by cannabis prohibition and ensure federal standards are adopted regarding worker protections and advantages for Minority and Women Owned Businesses.”

Toward this end, SSDP identifies a two-pronged solution: 

  • Enact reparative justice measures including creating paths to expungement and funding reentry programs for victims of prohibition. (People of color and individuals from low income communities are disproportionately arrested and convicted for cannabis-related violations.) 
  • “Secure funding for state-level equity programs to ensure the inclusion of women and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals in the burgeoning cannabis industry.” 

And, while many of the conference attendees I spoke with were aligned with this comprehensive approach, SSDP’s policy agenda is impressively thorough, identifying “intermediate fixes” which, among other things, include: prohibiting VA doctors from punishing its physicians who recommend cannabis and ending the eviction of federally-subsidized-housing residents related to cannabis use.

Cannabis makes another appearance in the SSDP 2019 Federal Policy Agenda in a discussion about reducing barriers to scientific research. The document correctly notes that scientists seeking to study cannabis, “…must still obtain it through the lone producer contracted with the National institute on Drug Abuse and registered with the DEA.  This system has prevented meaningful scientific research from taking place in the United States.”  Only robust scientific research, “will enable lawmakers to adopt drug policies based on facts rather than unfounded fears.” This bold font is added by me.  In my cynical mind, one of the terribly sad ironies of cannabis’ Schedule 1 status is that in a nation where evidenced-based medical therapies are the gold standard, we are getting in our own way. We require evidence – but our government prevents our scientist and doctors from obtaining it! Thankfully, it seems, the tide is turning and SSDP deserves credit for being part of the force behind this forward motion! ❖

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