Why Bernie Sanders Sees Legalization As A Social Justice Issue

At a campaign event in Virginia Oct. 28, Bernie Sanders separated himself from Democratic and Republican presidential candidates by declaring: "The time is long overdue for us to remove the federal prohibition on marijuana."

He said America needs to remove cannabis from federal drug scheduling altogether, and allow each state to regulate it like tobacco and alcohol.

This was a bold promise - more far-reaching than any made by a candidate so far. Most candidates who favor relaxing the laws merely want the Schedule I drug moved to Schedule II so that it can be prescribed for medical use and be more easily studied by researchers.

In his speech, the Vermont senator framed the cannabis debate in social justice terms, referring to the number of Americans who "have seen their lives destroyed because they have criminal records as a result of marijuana use. That is wrong; that has got to change."

Here's the full statement:

A huge story on its own, his statement was actually part of a crusade Sanders launched on Twitter this week that marries cannabis with social justice issues like prison sentencing and income equality. Here's a sampling, beginning with a comment on the Republican field of candidates:

So with all these promises, does the Sanders campaign have a chance? We'll let Bernie have the last word:

Latest.

It costs an average of $4,000 for police to bring someone up on cannabis changes - but it could run the defendant as much as $20,000 to fight the case. It's no secret that a lot of taxpayer money is wasted each year on enforcing unjust marijuana laws. By some estimates, as much as $3.6 billion is spent every year arresting some 820,000 Americans on cannabis-related charges.

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