In a move that decisively sets his stance on drug policy apart from any other candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced a bill that would remove all references to cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and strike all federal prohibitions from the books.
Sanders previously expressed his intention to tackle cannabis prohibition at an October town hall meeting at George Mason University in Northern Virginia.
“In my view, the time is long overdue for us to remove the federal prohibition on marijuana,” he said. “States should have the right to regulate marijuana the same way that state and local laws now govern the sale of alcohol and tobacco.”
The “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2015” would also remove barriers to federal cannabis research and allow access to banking and other basic business services currently unavailable to much of the cannabis industry.
In Virginia, Sanders addressed the injustice of disproportionate drug enforcement in communities of color, especially Black neighborhoods.
“There is a racial component to this situation. Although about the same proportion of blacks and whites use marijuana, a black person is almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person,” he said. “Too many Americans have seen their lives destroyed because they have criminal records because of marijuana use. That is wrong. That has got to change.”
It remains to be seen what traction if any the bill will gain in the Senate, but Sanders will likely see a spike in voter interest, if not necessarily support. Particularly among young voters, who are largely supportive of decriminalization and (while not one-issue voters) likely to be moved to the polls by an explicitly pro-cannabis decriminalization candidate.
This could be a pivotal moment for U.S. drug policy. It’s definitely one for Sanders’ campaign.
Should cannabis be removed from the Controlled Substances Act? Tell us what you think in the comments.