Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has revealed plans to legalise cannabis on a federal level.
The plan, which was aptly announced at
4:20pm local time, will effectively take aim at the “destructive war on drugs” and
large cannabis corporations who are taking the market share away from budding
He also wants to have all previous
cannabis convictions struck off while giving former prison inmates financial
assistance to launch cannabis-related businesses.
The 78-year-old is one of several
presidential candidates who has outlined plans to legalise cannabis if they
eventually get elected. The Leaf Desk covered
an extensive list of the candidates who’ve voiced their opinions on whether
they are for or against legalising cannabis in the future, with Bernie being
among the frontrunners for pro-legalisation.
“[The war on drugs] has
disproportionally targeted people of colour and ruined the lives of millions of
Americans,” Sanders said in a statement.
“When we’re in the White House, we’re going to end the greed and corruption of
the big corporations and make sure that Americans hit hardest by the war on
drugs will be the first to benefit from legalisation.”
While cannabis legalisation has recently become an increasingly hot topic for the democratic party, Sanders sticks out as the most revolutionary of the candidates on the subject after he was the first major candidate to initially call for cannabis to be legalised during 2016, and introduced the very first independent marijuana legalisation bill to the Senate in 2015.
As well as legalisation, he also
indicated he would like to see cannabis completely removed from the government’s
schedule of controlled substances list, which would enable a cannabis economy
to form and institutions working with cannabis industries to avoid prosecution
on a federal level.
Looking forward, Sanders has stated he
would aim to completely legalise cannabis within the first 100 days through an
executive order meaning a legally-binding proposal would be tabled and
published in the Federal Register, allowing it to only be reversed by courts
and Congress, and making cannabis federally legal.
The initial program has received
complaints on being too slow to make a difference in regards to individuals who
have received cannabis convictions and can have them erased. Subsequently,
Sanders has insisted on creating a new clemency board for the sole purpose of
expunging old records which will operate separately from the Department of
He has proposed to continue to fight
against the large cannabis corporations who are dominating the market to ensure
that communities who have been negatively impacted by cannabis laws previously
can benefit from the industry, and to additionally use the cannabis tax revenue
to allow a $20 billion grant program to award to entrepreneurs within the
Minority Business Development Agency.
Another plan is to ban tobacco
companies from dipping into the cannabis market and moulding it into a similar
industry to the big tobacco industry, the plan is to incentivise cannabis
businesses to run as non-profits or cooperatives and the implementation of
market share caps to prevent consolidation.
The legalisation of cannabis has been a constant topic throughout the 2020 primaries with most popular candidates voicing their opinions in favour of legalising weed, with the exception of Joe Biden, who would put in to action the decriminalisation of cannabis and move it from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 under the Controlled Substances Act.
Another notable democratic candidate –
Elizabeth Warren – has been a staunch cannabis supporter, vowing to take
executive action in legalising weed, and has previously sponsored an array of
cannabis reforms including being one of two senators who initially introduced
the STATES Act, which would allow for individual states to make decisions of
cannabis policies and aim to end the federal prohibition of cannabis.
Andrew Yang has also been open about
his support for legalisation and his plan to pardon individuals who have been
imprisoned for non-violent cannabis offences, he’s even gone so far as to say
he would “high five them on their way out of jail”.
Marijuana to be descheduled as a drug
Sanders believes that cannabis should
be ‘rescheduled’, which means that it will no longer fall under federal law or
be classified under the Controlled Substances Act.
The topic of cannabis legalisation has
become exceedingly popular, possibly due to the general public’s perception of
the plant and more liberal views being held on it. A new poll found
that 66% of American citizens supported the idea of legalising cannabis as
opposed to 44% almost ten years ago in 2010.
Democrats also voted 76% in favour of
legalisation along with 51% of Republicans, demonstrating the rapidly shifting
attitude towards cannabis and the statistics showing that support for it is
clearly at a majority level.
Currently, Marijuana is a schedule one
drug alongside cocaine, heroin and LSD, despite the fact that mounting medical
trials and research demonstrate that there is in fact a plethora of medical
benefits in the plant.
In the US currently there are 11 states
and Washington DC which have legalised cannabis. However, it still stands as
illegal on a federal level.
Those who would like to see
legalisation happen to allow for a predominantly safe drug to be used without
fear of imprisonment have argued that prohibition has not achieved its aim in
reducing the use of cannabis. It has resulted in unfair arrests throughout the
nation, billions of dollars being used in the black market and the support of
drugs cartels across the globe.
Rescheduling cannabis would open up
the potential of making the sale of it legal on a national level, thus
increasing the potential tax revenue for the US. Canada recently legalised
cannabis for recreational use and it’s thought that America may follow their
lead due to the economic boost it has served.
It appears that the old-time war on
drugs is officially over and the increase in public and political interest on
the topic of cannabis shows the United States’ accelerated course to the
possible legalisation of weed will be sooner rather than later.