Sen. Bernie Sanders has released the official marijuana legalization plan he will put into action if he is elected president, including a commitment to legalize marijuana nationwide during his first 100 days in office.
Sanders said he plans to make cannabis legal across the country, something that happened last year in Canada and may happen next year in Mexico, through the use of an executive order. He does not plan to go through Congress.
Part Sanders’ marijuana legalization plan involves creating a grant program for those in the minority community that will help them enter the cannabis business. It also would involve expunging the criminal records of those arrested for marijuana possession charges, something that has become a key component of marijuana proposals across the country.
Rolling Stone called Sanders’ measure “one of the most ambitious marijuana legalization plans to date.”
Sanders Focuses on Fairness
On his website, Sanders called his marijuana legalization plan needed reform after decades of the War on Drugs. “When we talk about criminal justice reform and ending institutional racism in America, we are talking about ending the disastrous war on drugs, which has disproportionately targeted people of color and ruined the lives of millions of Americans,” he wrote.
He noted that African Americans are almost four times more likely to get arrested for marijuana possession than white Americans, even though the marijuana use rate is about the same among all races.
Sanders also asked why a person can get arrested for smoking marijuana in 2019 but “not one of the crooks on Wall Street went to jail for nearly destroying the economy 11 years ago?”
Highlights of Bernie Sander’s Plan
The ambitious plan has many different facets. Here is a look at some of the highlights of the plan.
Expunging Marijuana Arrests
Sanders wants to create a system in which all marijuana arrests at the federal and state level are reviewed and a determination is made if the arrest is eligible to be expunged.
Reinvesting Marijuana Tax Dollars
Taxes collected through marijuana sales would create a $50 billion fund for grant programs and community development funds, according to the Burlington Free Press. That would include $20 million for entrepreneurs of color, $10 billion in grants to businesses that are at least 51% owned by people who live in areas “disproportionately affected by the drug war,” $10 billion for those with past drug convictions to start marijuana farms and $10 billion for a targeted economic and community development fund.
Keeping Tobacco Out of Marijuana
Sanders’ marijuana legalization plan also would ban Big Tobacco from entering the marijuana business. The idea is to keep a diverse mix of businesses entering the industry, which often has high licensing fees that keep smaller businesses from getting in.
How Sanders Will Start Cannabis Legalization
On his website, Sanders said he would get the ball rolling by immediately directing his attorney general to declassify marijuana as a controlled substance. He also plans to nominate an attorney general, Health and Human Services Director and DEA administrator “who will all work to aggressively end the drug war and legalize marijuana.”
Sander’s site noted that these moves also would allow financial institutions to extend services to marijuana companies and “ensure permanent legalization of marijuana.”
Rolling Stone wrote that the Sanders’ marijuana legalization plan is unique because it “takes a comprehensive and more long-term approach toward the cannabis marketplace, and ensures that small business owners will be able to have a piece of the pie.”