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Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is preparing for a new candidacy for the Democratic presidential election, he announced Tuesday.

Since he was mayor of Burlington, Vermont, to the US Senate, Sanders has emerged as a champion of drug policy reform, particularly with respect to marijuana. NORML gave the Senator an "A +" rating based on his legislative history.

And Sanders was quick to incorporate drug reform into his last presidential bid. In his announcement video, he reiterated that the government "must put an end to the destructive war on drugs."

Legislation and political actions

Sanders has been behind some of the first and most extensive legislative efforts to fundamentally change federal cannabis laws. During his last candidacy, he was the first presidential candidate to support the legalization of marijuana. In 2015, he tabled the first Senate bill to end the federal prohibition of cannabis.

He has also attached his name to a number of Reform bills in Congress, dating back to his time in the House, as well as during his tenure in the Senate. This includes recent laws such as the Marijuana Justice Act, which would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and punish states to enforce it in a discriminatory manner, as well as the Freedom and Freedom Act. marijuana, which would unravel cannabis at the federal level.

More than 20 years ago, Sanders sponsored a bill to legalize and regulate marijuana for medical purposes. He also signed a bill to reprogram cannabis and protect states with legal medical cannabis. He co-sponsored versions of this bill at the 107th, 108th and 109th Congresses.

When Sanders arrived in the Senate, he began to support federal reform efforts on hemp. He co-sponsored three versions of a bill introduced by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) to remove hemp from the definition of marijuana under the CSA, for example. At the last congress, he cited legislation aimed at legalizing industrial hemp.

The senator also supported bills to protect banks from federal lawsuits if they chose to accept marijuana professional accounts in legal states.

On four occasions in the House, Sanders voted in favor of amendments to protect medical marijuana from the legal states against any federal government intervention. In 1998, he voted against a resolution purporting to express "the opinion of Congress that marijuana is a dangerous and addictive drug that should not be legalized for medicinal purposes."

Quotes and publications on social media

Sanders expressed support for marijuana reform in speeches, debates and social media. His messages about the problem usually fall into one of three categories:

1. Marijuana is not comparable to other drugs listed in Schedule I of the CSA and therefore should be removed from this list.

"At present, the federal government has listed marijuana as a Schedule I drug, which means that it is considered as dangerous as heroin. It's absurd, "he said at a rally at George Mason University in 2015." In my opinion, it's high time that we lift the federal ban. " marijuana. "

He lamented that "marijuana be listed as heroin" at a campaign event held at the University of Iowa.

"I know you are a group of smart people and, very seriously, I know it and hope very much that you all understand what a killer heroine is," he said. "There are two ways to do heroin: Number one, you will be arrested and go to jail. Secondly, you will die. Stay away from the heroine. "

"But when it comes to marijuana, a lot of lives have been affected, because if you have a criminal record for marijuana possession, it could affect your ability to get a job," he said. "And that is why I introduced a bill and will go ahead as president to eliminate marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act."

And when Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton proposed reprogramming cannabis and placing it in Appendix II, Sanders said she appreciated the fact that she is addressing the issue but that her proposal "ignores the main issue" that she places "marijuana in the list". same category as cocaine and continue to use marijuana as a federally regulated substance. "

2. Black Americans have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs and are more likely to be arrested for marijuana despite the fact that usage rates are about the same among different racial groups.

"We must recognize that blacks are four times more likely than whites to be arrested for possession of marijuana, even though the same proportion of blacks and whites consume marijuana," Sanders said in a press release . "Any serious reform of the criminal justice system must include the removal of marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act."

"I'm happy to see that Baltimore will no longer pursue marijuana possession and will give up some convictions," Sanders said after the city's attorney general made the announcement in early 2019. "Thousands and thousands of people in Across the country have lost their lives because they have criminal records related to marijuana use – and that disproportionately affects people of color. It is time to decriminalize marijuana and put an end to the failed war on drugs. "

"Where this becomes a racial problem, it turns out that whites and blacks were using pretty much as much marijuana," Sanders said in an interview with rapper Killer Mike in 2015. "Four more blacks are arrested for possession than whites, and this becomes a racial problem.

"The reality is that both the African-American community and the white community are selling marijuana at roughly equal rates," he said during a Wisconsin debate. "The reality is that four times as many blacks get arrested for marijuana."

3. It is an injustice for young people to be upset by a nonviolent cannabis conviction, while Wall Street bankers avoid prosecution for financial crimes.

"If a child from Iowa or Vermont is taken into possession of marijuana today, he will get a police record that will remain so for all his life," Sanders said at a rally in New York. Iowa in 2016. "But Wall Street leaders who plunged this country into the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, whose greed and illegal behavior have resulted in the loss of jobs, Of homes and savings for the lives of millions of Americans, those leaders who are paying billions of dollars in settlement agreements with the government, none of them has been prosecuted. None of them has a criminal record.

"It's an obscenity that we stigmatize so many young Americans who have criminal records for smoking marijuana, but curiously, no Wall Street executive has been sued for almost causing the collapse of our economy. ", did he declare. National Urban League. "It does not make much sense to me."

Before opposing the full legalization of marijuana, Sanders' position on drug policy has changed somewhat.

When he was campaigning to become Governor of Vermont in 1972, he seemed to want to legalize all drugs in an attempt to thwart what he described as "the gradual erosion of freedoms and the sense of what freedom really means "under the administration of President Richard Nixon, writing that the government should" abolish all laws regarding abortion, drugs, sexual behavior ".

While states like Colorado were beginning to legalize cannabis for adult use, Sanders said in interviews that he had acknowledged that the subject was gaining popularity and had been committed to it. to study closely. He expressed support for Vermont's decriminalization policy and the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes.

Sanders also complained about the way federal laws prevent the effective implementation of marijuana treatment programs in states, noting that cannabis companies have trouble accessing banking services, for example.

"I think the federal government can do some things that would make it easier for states to move in that direction," he said in 2015. "What the federal government can do is say to State of Colorado, if you choose to vote for the legalization of marijuana, we will allow you to do so without restrictions. "

He also called for federal decriminalization as a response to "the pursuit of obtaining criminal records by millions of people over the decades because they were arrested in possession of marijuana."

Sanders criticized the steps taken by the Justice Department under President Donald Trump to dismantle the guidelines on federal priorities for marijuana enforcement.

"No, Attorney General [Jeff] Sessions. Marijuana is not the same as heroin, "he said in a statement last year before Sessions canceled Cole's memo. "No one who has seriously studied the issue believes that marijuana should be classified as an Annex I drug alongside killer drugs such as heroin."

"On the contrary, we should give states the right to decriminalize marijuana, not reverse the progress made in recent years," he said.

He also congratulated Canada when the country passed a law legalizing cannabis for adult use and said: "It is high time that the US put an end to the federal ban on marijuana . "

And he congratulated Seattle when the city's judges decided to give the green light to the redactions for previous convictions for possession of marijuana.

"We need to decriminalize marijuana nationwide and eliminate federal crimes related to the use of marijuana and possession," he wrote.

Personal experience with marijuana

Sanders said he smoked marijuana decades ago, but that this plant "did not do much for me".

"I had smoked marijuana twice and I only had the courage to cough, so it did not work," he told a rally in Las Vegas. "But I understand that other people have had different experiences."

That being said, the honorable senator emphasized that his efforts to reform the marijuana laws are not intended to "encourage anyone to smoke marijuana".

Marijuana under a Sanders presidency

First presidential candidate to have approved the legalization of marijuana – and to have introduced and co-sponsored some of Congress's most ambitious cannabis bills – Sanders has already marked the history of marijuana during its career. In his announcement, he again indicated that it would be a priority to address the problems of the narcotics war, and that one of the objectives of this program would probably be to seriously consider legislating to end the drug problem. federal prohibition of marijuana.

While most of the Democratic presidential candidates of 2020 have supported legalization at this stage, Sanders long-time tradition of drug policy reform gives voters relatively strong assurance that the legalization of marijuana would be at the top of his priorities as chair.

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