Federal cannabis legalization could become a reality after the 2020 presidential election, especially if Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) takes the White House.
The longtime cannabis reform advocate has just released a detailed plan to legalize the use of the drug. Sanders’ plan would also address social inequalities as a result of the war on drugs and a lack of business opportunities for aspiring minority cannabis business owners.
As president, Sanders said he would issue an executive order to legalize cannabis on the federal level within his first 100 days in office. He also would create a clemency board requiring state and federal authorities to review previous cannabis cases to determine if new sentencing would be appropriate. Beyond expungement, the Sanders plan would call for investment in communities most impacted by the war on drugs.
“It is time to admit the criminalization of marijuana was a disaster, especially for communities of color, and allow those most impacted to move forward with their lives,” the Sanders campaign said in a statement. “Our job now is to legalize marijuana and vacate and expunge past marijuana convictions, and ensure that revenue from legal marijuana is reinvested in communities hit hardest by the war on drugs.”
The plan would shield smaller businesses from essentially being pushed out of the market. “We will provide resources for people to start cooperatives and collective nonprofits as marijuana businesses that will create jobs and economic growth in local communities,” the plan reads. Sanders is also seeking to ban tobacco companies and others “that have created cancer-causing products or (are) guilty of deceptive marketing.” In addition, franchise caps would be implemented to prevent large companies from dominating the market.
Most Americans do not have a favorable view of the war on drugs and polls show that approximately two-thirds support recreational cannabis legalization, making support for reform a relatively safe issue for presidential candidates. Former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) are the only two candidates who have not called for full legalization, though both have signaled support for substantial cannabis reforms. Sanders is the first to release a legalization plan in detail. However, Senator Corey Booker (D-N.J.) introduced the Marijuana Justice Act in Congress, a bill that would remove cannabis from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) list of controlled substances. The bill is supported by other candidates including Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
Drug Policy Action, a well-known advocacy group working to reform federal drug laws, worked with the Sanders campaign to create the cannabis legalization plan.
“We are grateful for the opportunity our team had to work with the Sanders campaign to ensure criminal justice reforms and social equity were at the forefront of his marijuana legalization platform,” Queen Adesuyi, national affairs policy manager at Drug Policy Action said in a statement.
“When it comes to ending prohibition, we cannot go forward without looking back. It is not enough to just legalize marijuana,” Adesuyi added. “We must do it the right way, and that means reinvesting in the communities that have been most harmed by the cruel and inhumane policies brought forth through the war on drugs.”