Bernie Sanders would legalize marijuana within his first 100 days in office

"It is time to admit the criminalization of marijuana was a disaster, especially for communities of color, and allow those most impacted to move forward with their lives."

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Last week Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders revealed his plan to legalize marijuana at the federal level, going farther with legalization than any candidate has gone before.

Sanders’ plan, released at 4:20 on Thursday, is promised to go into effect within the first 100 days of his presidency should he be elected, would legalize marijuana with executive action, vacate and expunge all past marijuana-related convictions, ensure that revenue from legal marijuana is reinvested in communities most affected by the War on Drugs, and ensure that Big Tobacco is not involved in any way.

The idea to legalize marijuana is part of Sanders’ bigger plan of massive criminal justice reform and ending institutional racism in the country.

“Too many lives were ruined due to the disastrous criminalization of marijuana. Today I am releasing my plan to: Legalize marijuana with executive action, expunge past marijuana convictions, invest in communities most affected by the War on Drugs,” Sanders tweeted.

If enacted, Sanders’ plan would follow California’s model of reviewing federal and state marijuana convictions, resentencing incarcerated individuals. When California legalized marijuana the state partnered with the nonprofit Code for America to help expedite the expungement process. Sanders plans to follow a similar process.

The plan would also authorize the creation of a $20 billion grant program to support entrepreneurs of color to start their businesses. A separate $10 billion grant program would help support businesses in communities disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs, most specifically marginalized communities of color.

“We’re going to legalize marijuana and end the horrifically destructive war on drugs. It has disproportionately targeted people of color and ruined the lives of millions of Americans,” Sanders said on social media. 

In addition to the grant programs, Sanders’ plan focuses on getting previously incarcerated individuals back on their feet should their records be expunged. Senator Sanders calls for:

Eliminate barriers to public benefits for people who have interacted with the criminal justice system, including licenses and contracts, based on prior records, and eliminate drug testing requirements from future benefits and ensure people cannot be removed from public housing for marijuana use.

Sanders wants to make sure that the tobacco industry will have no role in the cannabis industry. The plan specifically mentions a ban on tobacco corporations from participating in the marijuana industry. But Sanders also wants to make sure that the marijuana industry doesn’t turn into something similar to Big Tobacco, so the plan calls for incentives for marijuana businesses that are structures like nonprofits as well as instituting “market share and franchise caps to prevent consolidation and profiteering.”

How does Sanders plan to pay for all of this? Well according to a recent study, legal marijuana could generate “more than $132 billion in federal tax revenue and 1 million jobs” within a decade.

“Why is it that in 2019, you can get arrested for smoking marijuana, but not one of the crooks on Wall Street went to jail for nearly destroying the economy 11 years ago?” asks Bernie on his campaign website.

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