United States Senator Bernie Sanders, who was recently labeled a “socialist ex-hippie” by the Washington Post, has been on a feverish mission for the past several months to shake the political foundation of mainstream America in the hopes of winning the Democratic presidential nomination. Sanders, the candidate touted as a sensible alternative to Hillary Clinton, has experienced some criticism over the past month because while he appears to side with the legalization of marijuana, he hasn’t exactly voiced his total opinion on the issue.
However, on Monday, during a campaign assembly in Portland, Maine, Sanders told a crowd of over 7,000 supporters “maybe it’s time we began to rethink the so-called ‘War on Drugs’.”
“If you do not believe that there is a correlation between high youth unemployment and the fact that this country has more people in jail than any other country on Earth, you would be wrong,” Sanders roared.
“Now, how does it happen that in this great nation, we have more people in jail than the communist authoritarian country of China, which has over three times our population?” he continued. “And in my view — and I feel this very, very strongly — instead of locking up our young people, maybe it’s time we found jobs for them and education for them.”
Earlier this year, the Vermont senator indicated his support for legalization, saying, “very few people were arrested for smoking marijuana [when I was mayor].” However, even after displaying decades of opposition to the tyrannies of the federal government and penning a letter in 1972 suggesting we “abolish all laws dealing with abortion, drugs, sexual behavior,” Sanders still has all but refused to say whether he supports ending prohibition on the national level.
“Colorado has led the effort toward legalizing marijuana, and I’m going to watch very closely to see the pluses and minuses of what they have done,” Sander said during a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” Internet conference in May. “I will have more to say about this issue within the coming months.”
Perhaps some of his skepticism is rooted in personal experience. During a recent interview with Yahoo News’ Katie Couric, Sanders said that he has “smoked marijuana twice,” but “it didn’t quite work” for him.
“It’s not my thing, but it is the thing of a whole lot of people,” he continued. “And if you want to make the argument that maybe marijuana is less harmful to health than tobacco, I think you’d probably be making a correct argument. Some may disagree, but I think it’s probably true.”
While Sanders may not yet be completely sold on the concept of legalizing marijuana across the entire nation, he appears to stand firmly in opposition to the domestic drug war. He told Couric that while many law enforcement officials believe marijuana is a gateway drug, he feels the prejudice against the herb has led to “far, far too many people” being locked up for “nonviolent crimes,” suggesting the policies that have attributed to this injustice should be reconsidered.
Marijuana reform advocates believe it won’t be long before Bernie Sanders finally acknowledges his full support for the repeal of prohibition. Tom Angell, founder of the Marijuana Majority, posted to Twitter yesterday: “I’m calling it right now: Bernie Sanders will endorse legalizing #marijuana by year’s end.”