Smoke ‘Em, If You Got ‘Em: Bernie Sanders Introduces Marijuana Legalization in US Senate

Bernie Sanders in Phoenix. (Photo by Dennis Gilman)
Bernie Sanders in Phoenix. (Photo by Dennis Gilman)
Bernie Sanders in Phoenix. (Photo by Dennis Gilman)

In the recent Democratic Party debate, Vermont Senator and Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders said he favored marijuana legalization, a stance that he had been hinting at for a while.

Sanders took a step further today by introducing a bill in the US Senate that would take marijuana off of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s “most dangerous drugs” list. (You’ll remember that two years after President Richard Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act— which classified marijuana as a schedule 1 drug [no redeeming medical value]– Nixon’s drug policy advisers told him to legalize marijuana instead. Hating the hippies for their constant harassment of him and his Vietnam War policies, Nixon went the other way by locking down marijuana use, locking up marijuana users, and stopping all medical research into marijuana.)  Will marijuana users finally see justice?

Sanders’ Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act is similar to a bill in the House of Representatives proposed by Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat from Colorado. From the Huffington Post...

“Just as alcohol prohibition failed in the 1920s, it’s clear marijuana prohibition is failing today,” Polis said in a statement. “For decades, the federal ban on marijuana has wasted tax dollars, impeded our criminal justice system, lined the pockets of drug cartels, and trampled on states’ ability to set their own public health laws. …

Today’s introduction of the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act in the Senate is a huge step forward in the movement to enact the commonsense drug laws needed to grow our economy and restore fairness to our justice system.”

Read the full bill here.

The bill comes a week after Sanders first proposed reclassifying marijuana as a less-dangerous substance, arguing that doing so is an essential component of reforming America’s criminal justice system. 

“In the United States we have 2.2 million people in jail today, more than any other country. And we’re spending about $80 billion a year to lock people up. We need major changes in our criminal justice system – including changes in drug laws,” Sanders said at George Mason University on Oct. 28. “Too many Americans have seen their lives destroyed because they have criminal records as a result of marijuana use. That’s wrong. That has got to change.”

Let’s see how this plays out. Hooray for Sanders. I’m glad he’s suggesting that marijuana be treated like alcohol and tobacco.

Jailing people and ruining their lives for using a plant that has never killed anyone is ludicrous– besides being a waste of money and a key element in mass incarceration. Let’s focus drug enforcement and prevention efforts on the drugs that addict and kill people– like prescription pain killers, heroin, spice, and meth.