If you didn’t think he had the college vote before…
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders recently filed a bill that deals with the criminalization of marijuana and other tetrahydrocannabinols. It’s called the “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2015.” As the name denotes, it’s designed to loosen the federal government’s various restrictions on marijuana. While the legislation has yet to be officially introduced in the Senate, Sen. Sanders has been getting a lot of press over the bill. So is it really worth the hype? Put on some “Buffalo Soldier” and let’s dive in!
Point 1: The main crux of the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act is to give states more power in enacting their own marijuana policies, without the fear of the federal government cracking down on individuals with the possession of marijuana or other tetrahydrocannabinols. With this bill, for the federal government anyway, the procession and use of marijuana would not be a crime due to the removal of the drug from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of the “most dangerous” drugs and the Controlled Substances Act.
Point 2: Ok, we have to get one thing straight here. Sen. Sanders’ bill doesn’t technically legalize marijuana nationally, not in the way most people are thinking anyway. As said before, it gives states the ability to police and enforce their own marijuana policies without hindrance from the federal government. Look at it like fireworks. In some states, certain type of fireworks would be known as illegal, while in a neighboring state they could be perfectly legal to use and purchase. Sen. Sanders’ legislation essentially would do the same thing to marijuana.
Point 3: Currently marijuana laws between states differ greatly. Some states like Colorado, Washington, and Oregon have allowed both recreational and medicinal use of marijuana and other tetrahydrocannabinols. While others like California, Illinois, and New York have allowed marijuana use for medicinal purposes only. Finally there are states that make possession and/or use of marijuana completely illegal. Sen. Sanders’ bill would allow states to keep (or make) their own laws for marijuana and other tetrahydrocannabinols.
Point 4: The bill goes as far as to respect state’s rights making it illegal for the transportation of marijuana from one state (where it’s legal) to another (where it could not be). Once again, think fireworks.
Point 5: One of the aspects that would change under Sen. Sanders’ bill is penalties for marijuana transportation. People who would be found guilty would either pay a fine or at worst, do no more than one-year’s jail time.
Point 6: Sen. Sanders has touted that his bill would be a huge step in reforming the criminal justice system. A stat that gets quoted often is that in 2013, just under 700,000 individuals – 693,482 to be exact – were arrested with breaking marijuana laws and around 88% (609,423) were later charged with jail time!
Point 7: Sen. Sanders’ bill has a lot of similarities with Rep. Jared Polis’ House bill back in 2013 called, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. It was reintroduced this year as well, but there are slight differences between both pieces of legislation. The biggest being that Rep. Polis’ bill would transfer the DEA’s authority of marijuana authorization and bring it into the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, where it would be regulated similar to how alcohol is in the US.
Point 8: Not surprisingly, Sen. Sanders’ pro-marijuana legalization stance has been very popular with many legalization groups, yet it has gotten the biggest applause from those on college campuses where many politicians have been struggling trying to attract the youth vote (ie Millennials).
Point 9: Yet Millennials aren’t the only one that has supported marijuana legalization. According to a recent Gallop poll, 58% of those surveyed support legalization.
Point 10: Yet realistically speaking, Sen. Sanders’ bill is unlikely to pass, since many in Congress are still wary about loosening federal marijuana regulations.
(Photo Credit: Google Images, Governing.com)