Vermont senator, and cannabis crusader Bernie Sanders won TIME magazine's Readers' Poll. The customer - in this case, the reader - is always right. But TIME had the final say for the magazine's "Person of the Year," and it chose German Chancellor Angela Merkel instead. Merkel finished nine spots back of Sanders in the popular vote.

Sanders would have made TIME history had he won. Former Presidents John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan have been picked top newsmakers of the year, but a presidential candidate has never received the honor.

Sanders is a progressive who supports legalization

The Vermont senator gained widespread attention this year for his progressive policies on combating income inequality, reforming the criminal justice system and - of course - overhauling America's cannabis laws. He called for the end of the War on Drugs and introduced a Senate bill that would end the federal prohibition of cannabis and allow states to regulate and tax cannabis like alcohol and tobacco.

And his lead has had a huge influence on the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination race. Cannabis activist Anthony Johnson argues that Sanders' stance on cannabis has forced Hillary Clinton to shift from her "wait and see" approach to legal reform, and pledge to reschedule cannabis so that it can be researched and tested.

So even though he wasn't picked as the year's top newsmaker, Sanders has left his mark on the 2016 presidential campaign by bringing cannabis into the conversation.

h/t TIME, Marijuana Politics, The Guardian

USAToday, H. Darr Beiser