Chelsea Clinton has walked back a statement she made over the weekend suggesting marijuana can lead to death when mixed with other drugs.
A spokeswoman for the daughter of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton told The Huffington Post that Chelsea “misspoke” during a forum at Youngstown State University in Ohio, when she said there is “anecdotal evidence” that some medical marijuana patients had died due to toxic interactions with other drugs they were taking.
“Chelsea misspoke about marijuana’s interaction with other drugs contributing to specific deaths,” the spokeswoman said. “Hillary Clinton has said we should allow states that have reformed their marijuana laws to act as laboratories for our democracy and we should reschedule marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II substance. Chelsea agrees and has long recognized and spoken about the need to study marijuana and get the conversation out of politics and into medicine and science where it belongs.”
On Saturday at Youngstown, an audience member asked Chelsea a question about her mother’s support for rescheduling marijuana for medical research. The former (and possibly future) first daughter said her mother “absolutely supports more research” and supports states that have legalized marijuana for recreational or medical purposes. But then Chelsea suggested marijuana use could be deadly.
The remarks were alarming to many drug reformers.
“It was a goofball thing for her to say,” Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of Drug Policy Alliance, told HuffPost. “There’s zero evidence that marijuana combined with any other drug proves to be fatal. Marijuana can enhance the effects of other drugs, but it does not enhance the danger to your life.”
Nadelmann also said that Chelsea may have confused marijuana, which has zero documented overdose fatalities in thousands of years of recorded use, with the very real opioid overdose epidemic currently plaguing the nation ― which frequently involves fatal drug combinations, like mixing heroin with alcohol or the very powerful painkiller fentanyl.
There is also some irony to Chelsea’s misstatement. Several recent studies suggest that access to legal medical marijuana may aid in reducing opioid overdose deaths as well as use of opioid medication in general for pain relief.
Mason Tvert, director of communications for Marijuana Policy Project, told HuffPost that while MPP was glad to hear Clinton’s reaffirmation that states should be able to establish their own marijuana policies, a science-based approach to the plant should lead Clinton to removing it entirely from the federal drug schedules, treating it more like alcohol and tobacco.
“If she reviews the evidence objectively, she should arrive at the same conclusion as our current president and most Americans, which is that marijuana is a less harmful substance than alcohol,” Tvert said. “Our federal marijuana policy is not in need of a tweak; it’s in need of an overhaul.”
Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, a nonprofit education organization that doesn’t endorse or oppose political candidates, and who first reported on the remarks, told HuffPost he was “very glad” that Chelsea corrected the record.
“She has a large platform right now and it’s important that she not contribute to the further spreading of outdated Reefer Madness myths, especially since voters in so many states are about to decide on crucial marijuana law reform measures on their November ballots,” Angell said.
Five states are expected to vote on recreational legalization in November, and four are supposed to vote on medicinal uses. Four states, as well as the District of Columbia, have already legalized the drug for recreational purposes, and medical marijuana is legal in 25 states, plus D.C.