Why Sanders Linked Legalization and Race Relations In The Democratic Debate

In the final Democratic Party Debate of 2015, candidates were asked about their plans to bridge the gap between law enforcement and communities. Only candidate Bernie Sanders mentioned removing cannabis as a schedule 1 drug under federal law as part of a concrete plan to reform the role that law enforcement plays in our communities.

Sanders began his answer to the question by acknowledging the uniquely high numbers of Americans who are imprisoned in the United States, and he called on Americans to change the systemic problems the large numbers of incarcerations creates.

"Today in America we have more people in jail than any other country on earth. 2.2 million people. Predominantly African American and Hispanic. We are spending $80-billion a year locking up our fellow Americans. I think, and this is not easy, but I think we need to come together as a country and end institutional racism."

Sanders Has A Plan For Ending Institutional Racism

In completing his answer to the question, Sanders outlined six steps he feels would help accomplish this goal.

  1. End the disproportionate police violence towards minorities.
  2. Legalize marijuana.

    "We need to rethink the so-called war on drugs which has destroyed the lives of millions of people. Which is why I am taking marijuana out of the controlled substance act, so that it will not be a federal crime."
  3. Move police forces towards community policing.
  4. Increase police department diversity.
  5. End minimum sentencing.
  6. Move investments away from building jails and incarcerating citizens towards economic growth.

Other Candidates Silent On Marijuana

Sanders fellow candidates for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton and Martin O'Malley, made no mention of marijuana, either in their response to the question about law enforcement or elsewhere in the debate.

In the past, both Clinton and O'Malley have said they would reclassify marijuana if elected president, but their proposals are not as far-reaching as those by Sanders, who currently has a legalization bill before the Senate.

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