Although Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders doesn’t appear quite ready to take a solid position on the subject of nationwide marijuana reform, he is, however, fully prepared to take on the beast of Capitol Hill to fight for changes in the way the country deals with prisoners of the Drug War.
Earlier this week, Sanders appeared before a crowd of thousands of supporters in Reno, NV where he discussed a myriad of issues, including his gnashing teeth approach to making significant changes to the U.S. criminal justice system. On the grounds of the University of Nevada, the Vermont Senator announced plans to introduce a bill next month to Congress that would eliminate privatized prisons on American soil.
“When Congress reconvenes in September,” Sanders said, “I will be introducing legislation, which takes corporations out of profiteering from running jails.
While the concept of putting an end to the business of imprisoning Americans is an admirable goal, it is not one that will allow Sanders to easily make it out Washington D.C. without making a few enemies. The exploitation of non-violent drug offenders, with a special interest in blacks and Latinos, is part of the bread and butter of the national economy. These corporate cages dealing in the incarceration trade generate billions of dollars in annual revenue, all of which is made possible through the criminalization of controlled substances.
In his speech, Sanders said that prison reform was a key issue, suggesting that the topic of “minimum sentencing” is one that desperately needs to be addressed.
“Too many lives have been destroyed for non-violent issues,” Sanders said. “People that are sent to jail have police records. We have got to change that. Our job is to keep people out of jail, not in jail.”
Although Sanders has not yet taken an open stance on the issue of nationwide marijuana legalization, some reports indicate that he plans to open up more about this in the next few weeks. Unfortunately, his hesitation towards the subject is concerning in the fact that, while he is the top candidate in the eyes of many cannabis reform advocates, he may not exactly be the stoner salvation that some pro-marijuana news sources portray him to be.
In previous interviews, he has made comments about being “the only person who didn’t get high in the ’60s,” not to mention he said, “it’s not my thing” when discussing the time or two that he did smoke marijuana.
Sanders’ official website suggests that his policy on marijuana is that it “has medicinal properties and ought to be legalized for medicinal use.” Yet, when it comes to the question of recreational weed, a position that could be considered an indicator regarding his willingness to lead the nation out of federal prohibition, Sanders maintains that he will continue to look to legal states like Colorado “before issuing a committed stance on the federal decriminalization of marijuana.”
Now, there is a distinct possibility that Sanders is simply keeping a leash on some of his more progressive views until later in the campaign. After all, during his bid for Vermont governor back in 1972, he did pen a letter suggesting that we should “abolish all laws dealing with…drugs.” So, it is conceivable, and likely probable, that Sanders still holds on to those beliefs. But then again, it is also possible that his fire may have died down a degree or two in the past four decades.
Nevertheless, Sanders is still the best horse in this race. And he currently leads against Hilary Clinton in the polls for the Democratic nomination. We only hope that his position on federal marijuana reform gets stronger as the campaign progresses.