Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders' campaign to become the 45th president of the United States officially ended today as he formally endorsed Hillary Clinton's White House bid. The two had an often combative relationship while fighting for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. But Sanders preached unity while addressing supporters in Portsmouth, New Hampshire today.
"I have come here to make it as clear as possible as to why I am endorsing Hillary Clinton and why she must become our next president," Sanders said before going over his reasons, which covered issues such as climate change, health care and income inequality. And at a number of junctures he came very close to dropping "marijuana" in his speech. But he pulled back each time.
When discussing America's opioid epidemic, it seemed fitting for Bernie to mention medical marijuana because it is a safer alternative to prescription pills, which can lead to addiction. And cannabis could actually help people overcome their dependence on drugs like heroin and oxycodone. But Sanders's talking points championed mental health treatment as the best way to combat addiction.
"In New Hampshire, in Vermont and across the country we have a major epidemic of opiate and heroin addiction," he said. "People are dying every day from overdoses. Hillary Clinton understands that if we are serious about addressing this crisis we need major changes in the way we deliver mental health treatment. That's what expanding community health centers will do and that is what getting medical personnel into the areas we need them most will do."
The next obvious point to drop marijuana reform came when discussing how America's criminal justice system impacted the futures of young Americans. On the campaign trail, Bernie often noted that marijuana prohibition hobbled the aspirations of young people convicted of marijuana offences because criminal records hamper their ability to get jobs, student loans and other opportunities.
The topic came up in his speech, but he again sidestepped the issue of marijuana reform.
"This election is about the leadership we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform and repair a broken criminal justice system. It's about making sure that young people in this country are in good schools or at good jobs, not in jail cells. Secretary Clinton understands that we don't need to have more people in jail than any other country on earth, at an expense of $80 billion a year."
So it looks like the party's progressive stance on marijuana reform will be limited to the platform - which supports marijuana legalization - rather than stump speeches. But Bernie might help the issue come up on the campaign trail. In his closing remarks, he pledged to hold the party to that platform.
"It is no secret that Hillary Clinton and I disagree on a number of issues. That's what this campaign has been about. That's what democracy is about. But I am happy to tell you that at the Democratic Platform Committee...there was a significant coming together between the two campaigns and we produced, by far, the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party. Our job now is to see that platform implemented by a Democratic Senate, a Democratic House and a Hillary Clinton presidency – and I am going to do everything I can to make that happen."
Banner image: NEW YORK CITY - MARCH 31 2016: Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders appeared before thousands of supporters at St Mary's Park, The Bronx, (a katz / Shutterstock.com)