Although Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has been campaigning hard for the past several weeks in hopes of making an impressive showing at the upcoming Iowa Caucus, this has not stopped him from continuing his fight to end marijuana prohibition in the United States—showing Congress that even the youth of the nation support legalization.
As initially reported by Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority, Sanders recently filed the work of several finalists in the Congressional Record, two of which are essays focusing on the desperate need for the federal government to reform its policies against marijuana. This action was part of of the Vermont Senator’s annual State of the Union essay contest for Vermont high school students.
Pointing out the dreary U.S. economy, Mikayla Clarke, who attends Bellows Falls Union High School, wrote in her essay that legalizing marijuana would serve as an avenue for digging the nation out of $18.7 trillion of debt.
“By legalizing marijuana, many more job opportunities would open and a whole new industry is created,” she wrote. “The amount that the whole country would make would be in the billions.”
Clarke, who suggests the federal government should legalize medical marijuana nationwide, followed by decriminalization and then full legalization, argues that the current prohibitionary model is preventing many citizens her age from reaching their full potential.
“People all over the country are getting in legal trouble for using and possessing marijuana,” she wrote. “Young people are getting criminal records for non-violent civil offense, and as a result will potentially be not allowed to gain federal student loans or jobs. With our limited police and jail resources, there are more important and harmful substances to focus on.”
Another student, Megan Bromley, enrolled at Milton Senior High School, wrote about her disdain for the number of rapes and sexual assaults that occur all over the country, while law enforcement continues to focus its energy on busting small time pot offenders. She argues that with nearly 13 percent of the population serving time for drug offenses, that perhaps focusing attention on removing dangerous criminals from the streets could make better use of local and national resources.
“We are pouring millions of dollars into our state and federal prison systems and too much of that is going towards people for up to twenty years for marijuana possession," she wrote. "However, I propose to use the funding instead to evaluate something such as unprocessed rape kits and begin to treat minor drug use in a proactive manner. Marijuana possession should be removed as a state and federal crime and result in no jail time.”
The essays written by these two young ladies is a solid indicator that the youth of the nation have become fully capable of offering an intelligent debate on the subject of marijuana reform. It is encouraging to see the younger generation standing up for what should be of interest to every citizen—public safety and our national economy—with an understanding that a better America can be made by moving forward with the legalization of marijuana on a much bigger scale.
And Senator Bernie Sanders couldn’t agree more.
“As is always the case, I am so impressed by the wide range of issues students wrote about this year, and by the quality of the essays,” Sanders said in a statement. “While there is no shortage of obstacles facing the United States, it is heartening to see so many young Vermonters thinking about the direction we need to go as a nation.”