Bernie Sanders says legalize it, don’t criticize it.
The independent senator and 2020 presidential primary contender announced on Thursday his plan to legalize marijuana by executive order within the first 100 days of his administration should he win the White House.
Sanders, whose home state of Vermont in 2018 legalized possession of one ounce of pot and let each adult resident grow two plants for personal use, has long been a supporter of decriminalizing marijuana nationwide. He’s argued that the criminalization of the drug has ravaged communities of color and created an unequal incarceration rate.
“Too many lives were ruined due to the disastrous criminalization of marijuana,” Sanders wrote in a tweet announcing his plan.
Along with legalizing marijuana nationwide, Sanders also proposed expunging all past marijuana-related convictions and funneling some of the revenue from the legal marijuana business into communities hardest hit by the so-called War on Drugs.
“When we talk about criminal justice reform and ending institutional racism in America, we are talking about ending the disastrous War on Drugs, which has disproportionately targeted people of color and ruined the lives of millions of Americans,” his campaign said in a statement.
“It is time to admit the criminalization of marijuana was a disaster, especially for communities of color, and allow those most impacted to move forward with their lives. Our job now is to legalize marijuana and vacate and expunge past marijuana convictions, and ensure that revenue from legal marijuana is reinvested in communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs.”
Legalizing marijuana has gone from a once-fringe issue to a mainstream topic of debate as more states have let residents buy and grow pot.
Ten states and the District of Columbia already have legalized recreational marijuana, while there are only nine states in the nation where the drug remains fully illegal. Most states either have decriminalized it or have allowed it to be sold for medical uses.
A recent poll from Gallup found that 66 percent of Americans supported fully legalizing marijuana, almost double the number from 2005 when only 35 percent supported the move.
The sentiment across the country has been reflected among the 2020 Democrats with all supporting at least some form of legalization or decriminalization of the drug.
While Sanders was the first candidate to lay out an extensive plan for legalizing marijuana, fellow candidates and senators such as Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California have supported the Marijuana Justice Act. Introduced by Booker, the legislation would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and expunge existing cannabis-related criminal records.
The only major candidates who haven’t supported full legalization: former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
Biden said he supported decriminalization and rescheduling, criminal-record expungement and increased research access to marijuana, but argued it should be up to states to decide whether to legalize the drug. Klobuchar has said she supported decriminalization and legalization, but so far has not gone into specifics on her stance.