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Hillary Clinton Calls for Easing Federal Restrictions on Marijuana

ORANGEBURG, S.C. — Hillary Clinton called for lowering the federal restrictions on marijuana research at a town hall meeting Saturday on the campus of Claflin University, a historically black university.

The Democratic presidential front-runner called for reclassifying the drug from Schedule 1, the most restrictive class that includes heroin, to Schedule 2.

"I want to move from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 so researchers can research what's the best way to use it, dosage, how does it work with other medications," she said.

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Under federal law, Schedule 1 means the government views the drug has having "no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States," even as 23 states have some kind of medial marijuana law on the books.

Rescheduling the drug would ease restrictions on research, which Clinton said would be critical to determining the correct policy on the drug. "We have no evidence because researchers can't experiment with marijuana because it's a controlled substance," Clinton said in Iowa in mid-September.

Image: Hillary Clinton, Roland Martin
Roland Martin, host and managing editor of TV One’s News One Now, speaks with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on the campus of Claflin University in Orangeburg, S.C., on Nov. 7, 2015. Richard Burkhart / AP

On legalization, Clinton has said she wants to see how the experiment works in the states and has called for more research on medical marijuana.

"I do support the use of medical marijuana," she said in the first Democratic presidential debate last month. "And I think even there we need to do a lot more research so that we know exactly how we're going to help people for whom medical marijuana provides relief."

The policy is another peg in Clinton's criminal justice reform plan, a campaign aide said, which she has been rolling out over recent weeks.

Related: Hillary Clinton Talks Criminal Justice Reform at Forum

Tom Angell, chairman of the pro-legalization group Marijuana Majority, said Clinton is moving in the right direction, but he called for her to do more. "The rescheduling of marijuana is a step in the right direction, but only going down to Schedule 2 is mostly a symbolic move," he said. "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. Only changing the federal criminal statutes can effectively do that.

Clinton's rivals for the Democratic nomination have gone further. Bernie Sanders has called for ending the federal prohibition on marijuana, letting states legalize the drug if they chose. Martin O'Malley called for taking the drug off the schedule of controlled substances entirely.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed Clinton's quote from the first Democratic debate to her town hall on Saturday. We regret the error.