Bernie Sanders & Joe Rogan Talk Opioid Crisis, Marijuana Legalization

By Victoria Kim 08/09/19

Sanders highlighted his plans for ending marijuana prohibition and the root of the drug crisis on The Joe Rogan Experience. 

Bernie Sanders & Joe Rogan
Photo via YouTube

Senator Bernie Sanders had a lot to say about drug policy in a recent conversation with Joe Rogan.

On a recent episode of The Joe Rogan Experience podcast (published Aug. 6), the conversation landed on marijuana legalization. Rogan pointed out that despite being legal for adult use in about a dozen states, there is still a big issue of quality control regarding legal marijuana being tainted by “all sorts of horrible pesticides” and chemicals.

“All of this because it’s not federally legal," said Rogan. "Because we can’t have sanctioned, licensed companies doing an ethical job of growing something that any responsible, law-abiding person should be able to consume.”

“When I ran for president for the Democratic nomination in 2016, I talked about a broken criminal justice system, which ends up having in the United States more people in jail than any other country,” Sanders responded. "And what I called for then, and I call for now, is the legalization of marijuana in America.”

Prior to running for president in 2016 before he lost the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton, Sanders introduced the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2015 in the US Senate.

Efforts to Legalize It

Though Sanders' bill was not popular at the time, marijuana legalization now has the support of other Democratic presidential hopefuls including Senator Elizabeth Warren and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Senator Kamala Harris, who is also vying for the Democratic nomination, recently introduced the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act).

The bill, described by the Drug Policy Alliance as “the most sweeping marijuana reform bill ever in Congress,” would work to undo the harmful impact of the decades-long “war on drugs.”

The MORE Act, like Sanders’ 2015 legislation, would remove marijuana from Schedule I under the Controlled Substances Act—effectively ending federal marijuana prohibition.

Currently marijuana resides in Schedule I, a category of drugs defined by the federal government as having a high abuse potential and no medical value. Other drugs in this category include heroin and LSD.

“That is insane,” said Sanders, referring to this designation. “Heroin is a killer drug. You can argue the plusses and minuses of marijuana, but marijuana ain’t heroin. So we have to end that and that’s what I will do as president of the United States. I believe we can do that through executive order and I will do that.”

Another facet of marijuana policy reform is erasing (or expunging) marijuana offenses from people’s criminal records. This is included in the MORE Act.

“I think ultimately we have got to legalize marijuana, and what’s good news is some communities, some cities, are expunging the records,” said Sanders. “So if you were arrested [and] have a criminal record for selling marijuana, that is being expunged. And that is the right thing to do.”

Demand for Drugs

When Rogan raised the subject of Americans’ unquenchable demand for drugs that is fueling business for drug traffickers, Sanders looked at the root of why more Americans are struggling with substance use disorder than ever before.

It boils down to "diseases of despair" and a lack of hope that has permeated the lives of many families. “How can we re-establish hope and optimism in the American people?” Sanders asked.

The conversation went back to universal health care, decent jobs that provide a living wage, rebuilding depressed communities, and improving the quality of education. 

“People say, ‘Oh that’s great Bernie, that’s utopian.’ It is not utopian. This is something that in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, we can afford, and we should be doing rather than creating a situation where Amazon pays $0 in federal income taxes,” Sanders said.

Another way to address the vicious cycle of drug abuse is to invest in young people, Sanders said. “When we invest in the kids—we get them jobs, we get them education—the likelihood of them falling into bad ways is significantly reduced.”

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr