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Bernie Sanders: If You Want Police Reform, Legalize Marijuana

Sanders described marijuana legalization as a key pillar in police reform during a speech on the Senate floor this week.

National leaders and lawmakers have held ongoing conversations around criminal justice reform and racial injustices following George Floyd’s death by Minneapolis police. According to Sen. Bernie Sanders, one obvious place to start is legalizing marijuana.

Sanders gave a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, discussing several solutions to address police violence in the country. He proposed abolishing qualified immunity and establishing a “civilian” core of unarmed first responders. But legalizing marijuana is a key pillar to police reform, Sanders added, especially amid other issues, such as the coronavirus pandemic.

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“Finally, and certainly not least importantly, we need to legalize marijuana,” Sanders said, as Marijuana Moment first reported. “In the midst of the many crises we face as a country, it is absurd that, under the federal Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is at Schedule I, along with killer drugs like heroin.”

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Photo by Win McNamee/Staff/Getty Images

Just last week Sanders held a virtual town hall meeting with Sen. Cory Booker, where they discussed the consequences caused by the War on Drugs. The Senators stated that marijuana legalization had to include expunging past criminal records for marijuana-related arrests, adding black Americans were disproportionately targeted in marijuana enforcement. It was a theme Sanders continued this week.

“State after state have moved to legalize marijuana, and it is time for the federal government to do the same,” he said. “When we talk about police department reform, we must end police officers continuing to arrest, search or jail the people of our country, predominantly people of color, for using marijuana.”

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Similar conversations have occurred at the state level this month. Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak proposed officially pardoning tens of thousands of marijuana convictions to reverse damages related to the Drug War. In addition, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced the city would redirect millions in cannabis tax revenue paid from the Portland police department and instead fund programs supporting communities of color.

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