Bernie Sanders Talks Marijuana Legalization on Reddit

By John Lavitt 08/17/15

The senator from Vermont continues to burnish his progressive credentials on the campaign trail.

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During a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" interview, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders expressed his support for the decriminalization of marijuana possession and the legalization of medical marijuana.

The Independent senator from Vermont, who is gaining steam in early polling for the Democratic nomination, suggested that he is open to considering further reforms when it comes to recreational marijuana. Sanders has even acknowledged using marijuana when he was younger.

In response to a question about his current position on marijuana, Sanders expressed his passion for getting the country's priorities straight. "The state of Vermont voted to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana and I support that," he said. "I have supported the use of medical marijuana. And when I was mayor of Burlington, in a city with a large population, I can tell you very few people were arrested for smoking marijuana. Our police had more important things to do."

A vocal critic of the decades-old war on drugs, he told TIME magazine in 2014 that he had "real concerns" about U.S. drug policy. With regard to full marijuana legalization, Sanders believes Colorado should be seen as a test site to gauge the effects of such a policy change. Colorado was the first state to legalize the drug for recreational purposes.

"Colorado has led the effort toward legalizing marijuana and I'm going to watch very closely to see the pluses and minuses of what they have done," Sanders said on Reddit.

Vermont is one of 23 states that have already legalized marijuana for medical purposes. Sanders’ home state has also decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use while it currently explores legislation that would legalize recreational marijuana. It will be interesting to see if Sanders’ progressive stance on marijuana use will become an issue in the upcoming Democratic debates and primaries.

Given the recent pro-marijuana turn across the country, such a backlash seems unlikely. Recent polls have shown that a majority of Americans support the legalization of marijuana.

Still, the federal government continues to classify cannabis as one of the "most dangerous" drugs alongside heroin and LSD. If Sanders is elected, such extreme perspectives could fall by the wayside under his progressive agenda.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.