Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has revealed plans to legalise cannabis on a federal level.
The plan, which was aptly announced at 4:20pm local time, will effectively take aim at the “destructive war on drugs” and large cannabis corporations who are taking the market share away from budding entrepreneurs.
He also wants to have all previous cannabis convictions struck off while giving former prison inmates financial assistance to launch cannabis-related businesses.
The 78-year-old is one of several presidential candidates who has outlined plans to legalise cannabis if they eventually get elected. The Leaf Desk covered an extensive list of the candidates who’ve voiced their opinions on whether they are for or against legalising cannabis in the future, with Bernie being among the frontrunners for pro-legalisation.
“[The war on drugs] has disproportionally targeted people of colour and ruined the lives of millions of Americans,” Sanders said in a statement. “When we’re in the White House, we’re going to end the greed and corruption of the big corporations and make sure that Americans hit hardest by the war on drugs will be the first to benefit from legalisation.”
While cannabis legalisation has recently become an increasingly hot topic for the democratic party, Sanders sticks out as the most revolutionary of the candidates on the subject after he was the first major candidate to initially call for cannabis to be legalised during 2016, and introduced the very first independent marijuana legalisation bill to the Senate in 2015.
As well as legalisation, he also indicated he would like to see cannabis completely removed from the government’s schedule of controlled substances list, which would enable a cannabis economy to form and institutions working with cannabis industries to avoid prosecution on a federal level.
Looking forward, Sanders has stated he would aim to completely legalise cannabis within the first 100 days through an executive order meaning a legally-binding proposal would be tabled and published in the Federal Register, allowing it to only be reversed by courts and Congress, and making cannabis federally legal.
The initial program has received complaints on being too slow to make a difference in regards to individuals who have received cannabis convictions and can have them erased. Subsequently, Sanders has insisted on creating a new clemency board for the sole purpose of expunging old records which will operate separately from the Department of Justice.
He has proposed to continue to fight against the large cannabis corporations who are dominating the market to ensure that communities who have been negatively impacted by cannabis laws previously can benefit from the industry, and to additionally use the cannabis tax revenue to allow a $20 billion grant program to award to entrepreneurs within the Minority Business Development Agency.
Another plan is to ban tobacco companies from dipping into the cannabis market and moulding it into a similar industry to the big tobacco industry, the plan is to incentivise cannabis businesses to run as non-profits or cooperatives and the implementation of market share caps to prevent consolidation.
The legalisation of cannabis has been a constant topic throughout the 2020 primaries with most popular candidates voicing their opinions in favour of legalising weed, with the exception of Joe Biden, who would put in to action the decriminalisation of cannabis and move it from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 under the Controlled Substances Act.
Another notable democratic candidate – Elizabeth Warren – has been a staunch cannabis supporter, vowing to take executive action in legalising weed, and has previously sponsored an array of cannabis reforms including being one of two senators who initially introduced the STATES Act, which would allow for individual states to make decisions of cannabis policies and aim to end the federal prohibition of cannabis.
Andrew Yang has also been open about his support for legalisation and his plan to pardon individuals who have been imprisoned for non-violent cannabis offences, he’s even gone so far as to say he would “high five them on their way out of jail”.
Marijuana to be descheduled as a drug
Sanders believes that cannabis should be ‘rescheduled’, which means that it will no longer fall under federal law or be classified under the Controlled Substances Act.
The topic of cannabis legalisation has become exceedingly popular, possibly due to the general public’s perception of the plant and more liberal views being held on it. A new poll found that 66% of American citizens supported the idea of legalising cannabis as opposed to 44% almost ten years ago in 2010.
Democrats also voted 76% in favour of legalisation along with 51% of Republicans, demonstrating the rapidly shifting attitude towards cannabis and the statistics showing that support for it is clearly at a majority level.
Currently, Marijuana is a schedule one drug alongside cocaine, heroin and LSD, despite the fact that mounting medical trials and research demonstrate that there is in fact a plethora of medical benefits in the plant.
In the US currently there are 11 states and Washington DC which have legalised cannabis. However, it still stands as illegal on a federal level.
Those who would like to see legalisation happen to allow for a predominantly safe drug to be used without fear of imprisonment have argued that prohibition has not achieved its aim in reducing the use of cannabis. It has resulted in unfair arrests throughout the nation, billions of dollars being used in the black market and the support of drugs cartels across the globe.
Rescheduling cannabis would open up the potential of making the sale of it legal on a national level, thus increasing the potential tax revenue for the US. Canada recently legalised cannabis for recreational use and it’s thought that America may follow their lead due to the economic boost it has served.
It appears that the old-time war on drugs is officially over and the increase in public and political interest on the topic of cannabis shows the United States’ accelerated course to the possible legalisation of weed will be sooner rather than later.