Federal marijuana reform continues to emerge as a touchstone issue in the upcoming 2020 election, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) is doubling down on his pro-cannabis platform. During an interview with The Breakfast Club, Sanders noted the need to change “insane” federal marijuana laws, as “too many lives are being destroyed” because of current legislation.
Sanders was adamant about the need to end the War on Drugs, believing marijuana legalization could go a long way to fixing the disparities that currently exist in the criminal justice system. He added the importance of marijuana decriminalization, stating “hundreds of thousands of people get criminal records. You know why? Because they have smoked marijuana.”
“Right now you have a federal Controlled Substances Act in Washington that says if you’re caught with heroin, he’s caught with marijuana, it’s both the same level. That’s insane,” Sanders said. “I believe in the legalization of marijuana, which by the way will be a major step forward in the struggle for a fairer, less racist criminal justice system.”
Sanders was also asked by The Breakfast Club hosts if he’d ever consumed cannabis before, which Sanders responded in the affirmative, reiterating what he’d told reporters back in 2015.
“Didn’t do a whole lot for me,” he said. “My recollection is I nearly coughed my brains out, so it’s not my cup of tea.”
While Sanders was one of few presidential candidates in the 2016 election openly pushing cannabis reform, many 2020 Democratic candidates have already expressed support for marijuana decriminalizing while others have even advocated for ending federal cannabis prohibition. If Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) is to be believed, President Donald Trump also favors national cannabis reform, albeit behind closed doors. The only candidate who’s feverishly against cannabis reform is former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), also a 2020 presidential candidate, re-introduced legislation last week that would legalize marijuana at the federal level. The bill, known as the Marijuana Justice Act, was also sponsored by Sanders, as well as other Democratic presidential candidates.
But Sanders emphasized the importance of creating a fair and equal opportunity industry amidst his support for cannabis reform. The presidential hopeful wants to facilitate a system that benefits those disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs and doesn’t bow down to corporate interests.
“There are large corporations that are going to be making a whole lot of money,” Sanders said. “Suddenly, 10 years ago everyone was demonizing marijuana, but now these guys are going to make a zillion dollars off it. And you’re right, small business owners in the African-American community deserve to be a part of that process.”