US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has vowed to legalise cannabis if he is elected to the White House.
The 77-year-old Democrat is going head-to-head
with his old foe Donald Trump next year, and he has promised to put marijuana
at the top of the political agenda.
Sanders plans to give the green light to
recreational cannabis throughout the States, while Trump’s anticipated stance falls
short of full legalisation.
Instead, Trump has suggested he would back
policy changes for widespread reform to open up the medical cannabis industry,
but he will draw the line at recreational use.
The contest mirrors a similar political battle
in 1981 when Ronald Reagan swept to power after taking a hard-line approach to
Carter’s proposals for a full legalisation of marijuana.
Carter, whose popularity was on the wane, had
pinned his hopes for retaining office on an America that wanted to see cannabis
legalised. Reagan, on the other hand, believed the US wasn’t ready for such a
move and took the opposite tack.
America’s conservative leaning against drugs
won the day, and the former Hollywood heartthrob spent the following eight
years occupying the Oval Office.
Fast-forward four decades, and Bernie Sanders
is hoping for a similar result – albeit a reversal of the 1980 presidential campaign.
Sanders set out his cannabis rhetoric during a
recent TV interview with Joe Rogan where he pledged to legalise marijuana by
“When I ran for president for
the Democratic nomination in 2016, I talked about a broken criminal justice
system, which ends up having in the United States more people in jail than any
other country,” he said.
“And what I called for then, and I call for now, is the legalisation of marijuana in America.”
He also took a swipe at the federal Controlled
Substances Act, which categorises cannabis alongside cocaine, heroin and other
“That is insane – heroin is a killer
drug,” he lambasted.
“You can argue the plusses and minuses of
marijuana, but marijuana ain’t heroin!
“So, we have to end that and that’s what I will do
as President of the United States – I believe we can do that through executive
order and I will do that.”
He also promised to echo Canada’s current policy of
wiping criminal records clean for minor marijuana misdemeanours.
“I think ultimately we have
got to legalize marijuana, and what’s good news is some communities, some
cities, are expunging the records,” he explained.
“So, if you were arrested and have a criminal record for selling marijuana, that is being expunged – and that is the right thing to do.”