Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has been a staunch supporter of marijuana law reform for several years, preceding just about all his rivals for the nomination in terms of public support for legalization. His support has continued after his loss in 2016 to Hillary Clinton, and he recently released his plan for cannabis legalization if he should be elected President next year.
The best part of the plan is also the most imperative to accomplish. “Under this plan, not only will Bernie take executive action to legalize marijuana by removing it from the Controlled Substance Act, he will expunge past convictions of marijuana related offenses, and ensure that victims of the War on Drugs are not passed over by the burgeoning marijuana industry.”
No single act would do more to advance the cause of marijuana law reform than cannabis being removed from the Federal Controlled Substances Schedule. In fact, there is only so far the movement can advance without it.
Bernie plans on following up the executive action he’ll take in the first 100 days of his administration by directing various agencies to start working to undo some of the damage caused by the War on Drugs and push Congress to enact legislation that will “ensure permanent legalization of marijuana”.
Other aspects of Sanders’ plan include resources for expunging criminal records and helping minority communities access capital to enter the legal cannabis industry.
One of the more interesting parts of the plan is a focus on specifically keeping tobacco companies out of the cannabis industry. Two of the bullet points near the bottom of the plan are as follows:
- Ban companies that have created cancer-causing products or are guilty of deceptive marketing.
- Ban tobacco/cigarette corporations from participating in the marijuana industry.
I’m not sure what the point of these stipulations is beyond pandering and punishing a specific industry for past transgressions. If there is a real worry about companies that make dangerous products entering the cannabis industry, why do the alcohol and pharmaceutical industries get a pass, for example?
Overall, the plan is heavy with government intervention in the cannabis industry, which is par for the course for Sanders. While he talks a lot about the greed and corruption of big corporations, he vents very little on the much more massive greed and corruption of the government.
Heavy regulation, “incentives” to push companies toward being non-profit and caps on things like market share will guarantee the federal government runs the legal cannabis industry with a heavy hand and limits the growth that the industry would otherwise be capable of.
I know it seems cool for the government to limit what companies can do, but in the end all that really limits are the choices consumers have. So while I applaud Sanders for many of the great aspects of his plan, those are limited to him getting the government out of the private business of citizens. Where he then turns around and gets the government right back into dictating the choices of individuals is the spot he loses me.