Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders hinted last week during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live that he was in favor of bringing marijuana prohibition to its knees if elected president. On Wednesday night, while giving a speech at George Mason University, the Vermont senator confirmed his intention to end Uncle Sam’s war on weed by revealing his plan to remove the cannabis plant from the DEA’s list of controlled substances.
“Too many Americans have seen their lives destroyed because they have criminal records as a result of marijuana use,” Sanders told the audience. “That’s wrong. That has got to change.”
The brass tacks of Sander’s proposal would essentially legalize the leaf at the national level by eliminating its classification as a schedule drug. This move would allow states the right to freely legalize marijuana in any manner they see fit without running the risk of federal drug agents swooping in for the shake down. As it stands, the DEA targets marijuana because it is currently listed a Schedule I dangerous drug, which states cannabis has no medical value and that the government considers it a scourge on civil society.
Sanders, who is the only presidential candidate to divulge a progressive scheme to tear down the bread and butter of the Drug War, announced hours before taking the stage in Virginia that “the time is long overdue for us to take marijuana off the federal government’s list of outlawed drugs” and that “states should have the right to regulate marijuana the same way that state and local laws now govern sales of alcohol and tobacco.”
Other Democratic presidential contenders, including front-runner Hillary Clinton, have not even come close to matching Sanders’ concepts of forward thinking. In fact, the former First Lady has only indicated her support for medical marijuana and the rights of individual states to develop their own pot policies. Martin O’Malley, the candidate with the slimmest chance of winning the Democratic nomination, recently said that he would downgrade the classification of marijuana to a Schedule II. But only Sanders has had the guts to stand up in favor of real reform.
“We have 2.2 million people in jail today, more than any other country,” Sanders told the crowd. “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.”
Not only would Sanders’ proposal castrate the DEA’s ability to raid marijuana businesses, patients, and customers, but it would also eliminate the agency’s eradication program. Furthermore, the cannabis industry would be free to work with banks without any federal hassles, and researchers could finally begin to truly study the therapeutic benefits of the cannabis plant.
“If Sen. Sanders follows through on these comments with legislation, it will be the first time in history that a bill will be introduced in the U.S. Senate to end federal marijuana prohibition,” Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority said in a statement.