Marijuana legalization may have gotten it's biggest endorsement yet Wednesday night when Senator Bernie Sanders came out in favor of ending the federal prohibition of marijuana while speaking at a town hall on the campus of George Mason University. The town hall was also broadcast to 250 student meetings across the country as a part of the Sanders campaign's "Students for Bernie" online event.
His speech thoughtfully laid out the reasons why marijuana prohibition has failed, including how blacks are almost four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana as whites, while using at roughly the same rates.
Sanders started out his remarks by citing a statistics from the FBI that recently revealed that there is a marijuana related arrest every minute in the U.S.. He went on to cite a study by the ACLU that concluded that over 8 million arrests were made for marijuana from 2001 to 2010, with over 90% being made for possession.
Senator Sanders also brought attention to the fact that the federal government currently treats marijuana as if it is more dangerous than heroin, saying that it is "absurd". According to BernieSanders.com under the Senator's proposal "people in states which legalize marijuana no longer would be subject to federal prosecution for using pot.", and "owners of stores that sell marijuana could fully participate in the banking system, like any other business."
Watch his remarks on marijuana below:
History was made last night when for the first time ever a Presidential candidate came out in favor of removing cannabis from the list of controlled substances. If marijuana reform advocates had any doubt in their mind who they should be supporting in 2016, it was made clear last night. For decades marijuana reformers have been fighting to be taken seriously in the national political arena, and last night Bernie Sanders elevated our issue to a level it has never been before.
I sure hope that marijuana reform organizations and cannabis businesses from across the country begin to organize to help Bernie Sanders' campaign for President. With half a dozen states looking to legalize next year and with a mainstream Presidential candidate backing our issue, 2016 could be marijuana legalization's tipping point. For those who haven't already, I think now is the time for marijuana reform movement to get behind Bernie Sanders for President. The beltway pundits think that Clinton is a shoe-in for the nomination, but I think that if the marijuana community were to throw its support behind Bernie's campaign, that we could seriously affect the outcome of the Democratic primary. If we started raising money for Bernie and using our networks (and our media outlets) to organize on his behalf, including volunteering to call voters in the early primary states, I can envision a scenario where the marijuana community is credited with helping Bernie win the nomination.
Each election cycle the marijuana vote continues to grow stronger, but aside from having more votes cast for legalization in Colorado than for Obama during his reelection, we have yet to see what we can do at the national level. Now that we are being taken seriously, how are we going to help steer the conversation?