Bernie Sanders has thrown his hat into the 2020 presidential election ring, with ten months to go until the New Hampshire and Iowa primaries, joining the widest spread of presidential candidates who support cannabis reform in American history.
The Senator from Vermont has a progressive record on the issues of cannabis legalization and criminal justice reform — but this comes despite the fact that he’s admitted to smoking cannabis and disliking it.
“I coughed a lot,” he said in an interview with Yahoo News’ Katie Couric. “I smoked marijuana twice — didn’t quite work for me,” said Sanders, according to the Washington Times. “It’s not my thing, but it is the thing of a whole lot of people… 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.”
At the time, Sanders pointed to law enforcement’s stance on the “gateway drug” theory and gave his own take. “What I can tell you is this: We have far, far far too many people in jail for nonviolent crimes, and I think in many ways the war against drugs has not been successful, and I think we ought to rethink that,” said Sanders.
He went on to point to Colorado’s experience with legalization and Vermont’s experience at the time with its own reforms. Sanders said back then he’d wait to see how legalization goes before making a final judgment, but from the look of his campaign platform around criminal justice issues, he’s already made the call. But it seemed like he’s made it a few times as a champion for pot in Congress.
Also, in another fun twist, this election cycle Sanders hails from the first state to legalize weed by the power of the governor’s pen — albeit a hesitant governor, who is preventing the foundation of a true recreational marketplace, but the weed that’s in Vermont is still legal!
Bernie Sanders’s Record on Cannabis Legalization
Despite Sanders’ penchant for coughing when the joint comes his way, he’s proven multiple times that he supports marijuana reform. During the 2016 presidential election, with legal marijuana already a growing topic in America (given it was a couple years post-Sanjay Gupta), Sanders spoke out about protecting marijuana providers in legal states from enforcement and just keeping the rest of us out if jail.
During a CNN primary debate in Las Vegas in 2015, Sanders was asked if he would vote for the ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in the forthcoming election.
“I would vote yes because I am seeing too many lives being destroyed for non-violent offenses,” replied Sanders. “We have a criminal justice system that lets CEOs on Wall Street walk away, and yet we are imprisoning young people who are smoking marijuana. I think we have to think through this war on drugs which has done an enormous amount of damage.”
Sanders is so pro-weed that NORML PAC, the political action committee sister of the NORML Foundation you’re familiar with, endorsed Sanders last summer — before he’d even declared he was running.
“Bernie has become one of the most outspoken and visible advocates for ending marijuana prohibition,” stated NORML PAC Executive Director Erik Altieri. “He has called for sensible drug policy throughout his career, made descheduling marijuana a key component of his platform when running for the Democratic nomination for President in 2016, and has co-sponsored key pieces of federal legislation such as the Marijuana Justice Act.”
Altieri went on to note while the cannabis policy is progressing in private conversations on Capitol Hill, Sanders is making his mark on the issue in the public eye.
“Senator Sanders doesn’t restrict his fight for reform to backroom meetings and floor speeches in Congress, he takes our message with him as he holds massive rallies and town halls across not just the state of Vermont, but throughout the country,” said Altieri. “His fire and passion have helped elevate our issue in the national dialogue and we are honored to support his reelection campaign. He is a true leader in the marijuana legalization revolution.”
Sanders will be running in a field crowded with other candidates supportive of cannabis legalization, including Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Kristen Gillibrand. This means that most of the Democratic presidential frontrunners support cannabis — a historical first.
TELL US, are you excited that Bernie Sanders is running for president again?