Debbie Wasserman Schultz Isn't on the Medical Marijuana Bandwagon

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: May 27, 2014 3:55 AM
Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Debbie Wasserman Schultz

The congresswoman's office may downplay her position, but Debbie Wasserman Schultz's opposition to medical marijuana makes her the highest profile Democrat in Florida to take such a stand.

And now at least one marijuana legalization proponent fears the chairwoman of the National Democratic Committee, fast friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, could influence Hillary Clinton to maintain a hard line on the weed if she makes it all the way to the White House in 2016.

Earlier in the month the usually progressive Wasserman Schultz broke ranks with fellow Democrats, voting against allowing federal doctors to discuss medical marijuana with patients.

In a story in the Washington Times, she called the move "premature."

It seemed an odd stance. The party-line liberal was one of just 18 House Dems to join 204 Republicans. And the vote was aimed specifically at authorizing Veterans Administration doctors in states that have approved marijuana for medical or recreational use -- including her own home state of Florida -- to talk to patients about the drug.

Sunshine State News tried to reach her last week, then left questions about her position on the medical marijuana bill just passed in the state Legislature and Amendment 2 on the November ballot. SSN received no reply by Friday evening, though one of her staffers indicated she is not anxious to discuss the issue.

The reason she gave for siding with Republicans was because she is waiting for the results of a medical study on using marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

“There was a study that was just commissioned to review the effectiveness marijuana has on PTSD patients. So I thought it was premature to adopt that amendment before the results of the study,” Wasserman Schultz said during a breakfast meeting with reporters hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

She insisted the legislation narrowly addressed the treatment of service members suffering from PTSD. “It was for PTSD,” she said.

But Tom Angell, founder and chairman of Marijuana Majority, a legalization advocacy group, responded with disappointment, saying he doesn't buy it: "It's shocking that the chair of the DNC would stand with so many Republicans in voting to censor doctors from discussing medical marijuana with U.S. military veterans who are seeking relief for their pain.

"This vote from someone who is supposed to be a shrewd political operator is made all the more inexplicable by the fact that poll after poll shows voters in her state favor medical marijuana by huge margins," Angell said. "She's way behind the times on this, and she's going to find that out in November, when Florida voters overwhelmingly pass the medical marijuana initiative that's on the ballot."

"Veterans Affairs has made it clear they don't want any doctors inside the system recommending cannabis," says Michael Krawitz, the executive director of Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, who was injured while serving in the Air Force in Guam in the 1980s. "The VA's general counsel has weighed in on this and said the DEA has been right on their shoulder, essentially threatening the VA that if doctors recommend cannabis, they'd be aiding and abetting criminals. And since VA doctors don't have free speech, they are in no position to argue."

On his website Vice, Matt Taylor said he did get an answer -- of sorts -- out of Wasserman Schultz's office, stating "why a leader of the nation's premier center-left party would vote against something like this."

This is the written statement sent to Taylor from Sean Bartlett, her spokesman: “Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz felt that it was premature to vote for such an amendment given that HHS has approved a new study to look at marijuana’s potential effects on PTSD. While there is evidence that medical marijuana is effective in providing relief in some medical conditions, the congresswoman looks forward to the results of that study before making a policy determination.”

Taylor said in his May 5 story, "Why won't the U.S. Government let veterans smoke weed," " ... Wasserman Schultz is going to have the ear of Clinton if and when she becomes the Democratic Party's 2016 nominee. Given the former secretary of state's tendency to embrace the safe, establishment course rather than stake out new territory, one can't help but wonder if Wasserman Schultz's vote is an indication of what to expect from a President Clinton (Part II) when it comes to drug policy."

NORML, a Washington, D.C.-based tracking group working since 1990 to reform marijuana laws, rates Wasserman Schultz a -10, indicating she maintains a "hard-on-drugs" stance when she votes in the House.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. 

Comments (22)

Patricia Silverman
9:31PM AUG 23RD 2014
she needs to go supporting an unconstitutional law
Jeffrey M Tuttle
11:24AM JUN 5TH 2014
3 polls this year alone indicate upwards of 80% of the VOTING citizens in Florida are for medical marijuana...........
Fran k
9:15AM MAY 29TH 2014
What a hypocritical culture we have. Pot is no more dangerous than alcohol or cigarettes.

They need to stop filling the jails with people using it. Put the violent people in the jails, not those that quietly abuse drugs. It's their choice and the government needs to leave the people alone....
Mike Parent
8:35AM MAY 28TH 2014
A Bought and paid for politician.
Let's hear what the experts, the DEA said ;FACT In 1988, DEA Administrative Judge Francis Young wrote in his ruling
"Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care."
7:44AM MAY 28TH 2014
So...DWS has more balls than Charlie "I love potheads now" Crist?
8:21PM MAY 27TH 2014
Politicians are getting caught by surprise at the change in public attitudes on this subject. I think some of them don't quite believe what's happening, and so they're clinging to a 'no drugs' policy, because that's how it's been for so long. She'll change her policy, if and when she realizes she's going to lose voter support.
Pat Rogers
4:51PM MAY 27TH 2014
According to the U.S. DHHS in 2008 more than 18% of the U.S. population smokes pot. A winning or losing margin in any electoral contest. And one that has proven effective dozens of times since 1996. Not the least of which being more voters voting for pot decriminalization in Massachusetts in 2008 than voted for Barack Obama. A fact repeated in Colorado in 2012. And Democrats in MA lost the seat of liberal icon Teddy Kennedy to an empty suit after the Democrats pot up against Scott Browne the leader of the FAILED decriminalization campaign of 2008. the seat was won back by the Democrats when medical pot supporter Elizabeth Warren ran with the full support of the pot reform community.

The major political party that first adopts a marijuana legalization platform is the party that rules the majority in congress for the next generation.
2:34PM MAY 27TH 2014
What an extreme disappointment from one of those whom we Democrats in Florida believed would represent the views of the majority in the Party. I have admired Wasserman-Shultz for her stances on many issues and for her staunch refusal to back down from many of her more vocal opponents on the right wing. This truly is a huge disappointment. I expected more from her-her refusal to issue a explanation for such a stance somehow leaves the impression that she, too, is nothing more than a Washington politician. I would hope that she will change her stance and vote with the majority of her Party-rather than against the expressed wishes of the Dems in this State.
1:49PM MAY 27TH 2014
No matter the stupidity of Florida politicians, and we have no shortage of STUPID on both sides of the aisle, We the People have a choice in November. Please go out and Vote YES on Amendment 2 and make Medical Marijuana legal in Florida. Thank You
Loki Luck III
1:31PM MAY 27TH 2014
DWS, just another victimless crime law proponent. Possibly a property of the Mega Pharmaceutical Cartel? I wouldn't be surprised; furthermore, this would effect the ACA program as well.
1:18PM MAY 27TH 2014
heh... well shes at odds against about 70% of the Florida population, she wont stay in office long.

Get with the times woman...
12:42PM MAY 27TH 2014
"against allowing federal doctors to discuss medical marijuana" Doctor's should be able to talk to me about anything under the sun. What other things are taboo for our physicians to discuss with patients?
11:26AM MAY 27TH 2014
What a crock!! These people who are trying to stay against marijuana just need to get lost. Get real you morons and legalize this amazing drug once and for all. And I don't mean medically, I'm saying full on legalization all the way of all kinds. The worst that can happen is tax revenue good rocketing and we stop throwing good people in jail for weed (NOTHING). Wake up and smell the pot America!
10:51AM MAY 27TH 2014
DWS you should be ashamed of yourself. I am in constant pain due to injuries and cannot/will not take Rx pain pills which have a horrible affect on me. Perhaps when you or one of yours find themselves in a similar situation you might re-think your reprehensible position.
10:33AM MAY 27TH 2014
10:08AM MAY 27TH 2014
Vote her out.
10:19AM MAY 28TH 2014
Vote her OUT!
Paul Pot
9:45AM MAY 27TH 2014
This woman will not be influencing Hilary Clinton negatively towards cannabis by the time we are in an election campaign the world is going to be a completely different place regarding cannabis and prohibition.
By that time 3 that's three different governments will have been operating legal cannabis markets for more than a year and it will be obvious that prohibition is a complete lie.
It will be completely impossible to defend prohibition.
The first stats out of Colorado already look good and it will continue.
And that study, if its genuine, will find in favor of the herb that brings peace of mind.
The next President will oversee the end of prohibition.
J Jackson
9:30AM MAY 27TH 2014
She is in bed with the DEA.

We all know that little Debbie does whatever the establishment wants her to do. She is nothing more than a low level puppet.

She is a coward and has zero integrity.
9:11AM JUN 5TH 2014
Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is and has long been, a class act - willing to repeatedly adopt thoughtful positions and stand strong. Her position no more puts her in bed with the DEA than with the Neanderthals of the Tallahassee majority. I continue to support her as a principled public servant not too quick to jump on band wagons because simply because doing so is popular or otherwise politically expedient.
r smith
6:59AM MAY 27TH 2014
I see...if there is a condition ( ptsd ) she likes for medical marijuana then its ok but if its for epilepsy or conditions caused from cancer treatment etc. then its sorry no pot. Very hypocritical. Plus I'm sure she has never tried it. These are the people who are trying to force there way of life down our throats. By the way I'm 66.
10:58AM MAY 27TH 2014
Agree - almost 60 here -

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