Senator Bernie Sanders Sounds Off for Legalization

Sen. Bernie Sanders Sounds Off

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

If Senator Bernie Sanders has already impressed you with his humble background, campaign funding discrimination, and generally progressive stance that give him that "cool old guy" feel, I am about to add another feather to his cap. Remember, Hillary and Bernie differ quite a bit when it comes to legalization.

A couple weeks ago at the last Democratic Debate, when asked if they would favor a local measure (the debate was in Las Vegas, NV) legalizing recreational marijuana use, Hillary was a bit hazy before replying "No." Bernie was clear.

"I would vote yes because I am seeing in this country too many lives being destroyed for non-violent offenses," he said. "We have a criminal justice system that lets CEOs on Wall Street walk away, and yet we are imprisoning or giving jail sentences to young people who are smoking marijuana."

Yesterday, Sanders went a step further, calling for nationwide decriminalization and removal of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug before heading to the Senate floor to give an impassioned speech on the detriment that prosecuting drug crime has on our nation. While federal decriminalization is not going to allow marijuana use in states that have yet to legalize, it would remove the grey area in which many businesses operate — making retailers legitimate, allowing them access to national institutions like, say, banks. 

There are so many people in the United States that suffer due to the lack of acceptance and persecution of drug crime. Sanders makes no bones about the fact that "there is a racial component" in the enforcement and marijuana and drug laws. He went on to show how the U.S. incarcerates 2.2 million people, which is even more than "China, which is a communist, authoritarian country four times our size." Not only is there the nationwide cost (of $80 billion per year), but there is also the cost to individuals who are unable to get jobs or loans given their "criminal" history. 

Worse, until marijuana is decriminalized, prosecutors are able to stage a crusade even when medical marijuana is legal. The Attorney General in Michigan has gone so far as to falsify forensic reports in order to land folks in jail for marijuana crimes they did not commit, further increasing the backlog of lab work and detracting from other investigations related to crimes like rape, where arrests are only made in 15% of cases. 

If that does not manage to make you angry, I honestly cannot say what will. Channel that anger: put down the bong, open another tab, and do something about it.