Bernie Sanders Opens Door For Pot To Be Regulated Like Alcohol

By McCarton Ackerman 10/30/15

The senator from Vermont continues to lead the charge on ending the war on drugs.

Bernie Sanders

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders vowed during a recent town hall meeting in Virginia that he would not remove marijuana’s classification by the federal government as illegal and allow states to regulate it in a manner similar to alcohol and tobacco.

Speaking with college students at George Mason University, Sanders said the more than 600,000 arrests throughout the United States last year for marijuana possession demanded a shift in drug laws. He would remove marijuana as a Schedule I drug, meaning it has a high potential for abuse with no accepted medical benefits, and allow businesses in legal marijuana states to use the banking system without fear of prosecution.

"Too many Americans have seen their lives destroyed because they have criminal records as a result of marijuana use," he said. "That's wrong. That has got to change. It is time to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol. It is time to end the arrests of so many people and the destruction of so many lives for possessing marijuana."

Sanders also cited racial disparities in marijuana arrests as a need to reform pot laws, noting that African-Americans were four times more likely to be arrested for pot possession than whites. He previously slammed the federal government for its drug war hypocrisy by putting people in jail for non-violent drug crimes while allowing white collar criminals to be set free.

"One of the biggest mistakes our government made after the financial crisis was not prosecuting the people responsible for the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior that crashed our economy and ruined the lives of millions of Americans," said Sanders in a statement last month to the Huffington Post. "It is not acceptable that many young people have criminal records for smoking marijuana, while the CEOs of banks whose illegal behavior helped destroy our economy do not."

Last year, Sanders told TIME magazine that he had “real concerns” about U.S. drug policy, stating that "we have been engaged in [the War on Drugs] for decades now with a huge cost and the destruction of a whole lot of lives of people who were never involved in any violent activities."

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.