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Clinton Calls For Loosening Federal Restrictions On Marijuana

This post was updated at 8 p.m.

Hillary Clinton eased her position on marijuana restrictions during a town hall in South Carolina on Saturday, saying she supported a reclassification of the drug to make it easier to conduct research for medicinal purposes.

"A lot more states have passed medical marijuana than have legalized marijuana, so we've got two different experiences or even experiments going on right now," the Democratic presidential candidate said. "The problem with medical marijuana is that there's a lot of anecdotal evidence about how well it works for certain conditions, but we haven't done any research."

Clinton said that's because the drug is currently classified as a Schedule 1 substance, which includes drugs such as heroin, LSD and ecstasy.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) defines Schedule 1 drugs as those "with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse." But if it were lowered to a Schedule II classification, it would open the door for more legal research.

"Researchers at universities, at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), could start researching what's the best way to use it, how much of a dose does somebody need, how does it interact with other medications," she said.

Clinton told the town hall at Claflin University in Orangeburg, S.C., that she still doesn't support legalization of marijuana, but that the federal government should monitor states where it has been legalized to learn more.

Clinton is the last Democratic presidential candidate to embrace this change for marijuana. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley said earlier this year he also supports reclassifying the drug as a Schedule II substance. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced a bill this week to end the federal ban on marijuana.

Sanders, who has recently begun to criticize Clinton more harshly, said her position didn't go far enough.

"I am glad to see Secretary Clinton is beginning to address an issue that my legislation addressed," Sanders said in a statement, "but her approach ignored the major issue. Secretary Clinton would classify marijuana in the same category as cocaine and continue to make marijuana a federally regulated substance.

"If we are serious about criminal justice reform and preventing many thousands of lives from being impacted because of criminal convictions for marijuana possession, we must remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act and allow states the right to go forward, if they choose, to legalize marijuana without federal legal impediments," he added.

Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, also said in a statement that rescheduling the substance to a Schedule II drug was only a "symbolic move."

"It may make research slightly easier, but on its own wouldn't do anything to protect seriously ill people who are using marijuana in accordance with state laws from being harassed by the DEA," Angell said. "Only changing the federal criminal statutes can effectively do that."

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