bernie sanders marijuana
Ending Marijuana Prohibition

Bernie Sanders To Introduce Legislation to Remove Marijuana from Controlled Substance Act

bernie sanders marijuanaOne day after announcing at George Mason University that he plans to introduce legislation to remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances, Senator Bernie Sanders took to the Senate floor to give an impassioned speech about how marijuana prohibition has failed.

In a speech that lasted ten minutes, Sanders drew contrast between the prison populations in the U.S. and China. “Tragically, in the United States of America we now have 2.2 million people in jail. This is more people incarcerated than any other country on Earth—including China, which is a communist, authoritarian country four times our size,” Sanders said.

He touched on the fact that the United States currently spends $80 billion per year in taxpayer money locking people up, explaining that we should continue locking up violent people, but should not be allowing criminal records from non-violent marijuana crimes to destroy the lives of thousands of Americans.

“Let’s be clear: a criminal record could mean not only jail time, but much, much more. If a person has a criminal record, it will be much harder for that person later in life to get a job. Many employers simply will not hire somebody with a criminal record. If somebody has a criminal record, it may be impossible for them to obtain certain types of public benefits. It would be very, very hard to public housing. A criminal record stays with a person for his or her entire life—until the day he or she dies. A criminal record destroys lives.”

This is an important aspect that is often overlooked about the damage that marijuana prohibition can do. The punitive damages that come along with marijuana charges can also include getting your license suspended or losing access to college financial aid. As someone who smoked weed in college and didn’t come from a privileged background, this was always a fear of mine.

Another consequence of marijuana prohibition that Senator Sanders was sure to address is the glaring racial disparity when it comes to the enforcement of marijuana prohibition.

“…And let’s be clear that there is a racial component to this situation. Although about the same proportion of blacks and whites use marijuana, a black person is almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person. In other words, as we try to understand why our prison population today is disproportionately black and Latino, one of the reasons is that because of overpoliced black neighborhoods, African-Americans are much more likely to be arrested than whites. Here’s the simple truth: an upper middle class white kid in Scarsdale, NY, has a much, much lower chance of being arrested for smoking marijuana than a lower-income black kid in Chicago or Baltimore. Those are just the facts.”

With all of the discussion surrounding police brutality and the #BlackLivesMatter movement recently, it is key that marijuana prohibition and the war on drugs is addressed. At the core of the friction between minority communities and the police is this “War on Drugs” mentality that police officers have had ingrained in their brains. For a little more context, check out Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow.

As a devoted marijuana activist, who started as an intern for NORML cataloging Congressional responses to constituents, the line I enjoyed the most, and one that I hope will reverberate through the ages was this one: “The time is long overdue for us to take marijuana off of the federal government’s list of outlawed drugs.”.

For anyone who understands how long marijuana prohibition has lasted, how deep the propaganda has been ingrained, and how many lives have been destroyed, today’s speech and the legislation to be introduced next week are of historic significance. This is the moment our movement has been waiting for over the course of decades. We better seize it and start to rally around this legislation, which will begin to unlock everything we’ve been working for.

Watch his speech (courtest of CSPAN)and read his prepared remarks below:

 

 

M. President, today I want to discuss a major crisis in our country that must be addressed.

Tragically, in the United States of America we now have 2.2 million people in jail. This is more people incarcerated than any other country on Earth—including China, which is a communist, authoritarian country four times our size. Further, at a time of large federal and state deficits, we are spending about $80 billion per year in federal, state, and local taxpayer money to lock people up.

Our criminal justice system is broken and we need major changes in that system.

M. President, there is no debate in this country that violent and dangerous people must be locked up and they must be kept in jail and away from society. On the other hand, I would also hope that there is no debate that nonviolent people, people who have been convicted of minor crimes, should not have their lives destroyed, while they do time in prison, and create an arrest record which will stay with them for their entire lives.

In 2014, there were 620,000 marijuana possession arrests. That’s one every minute. According to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union, there were more than 8 million marijuana arrests in the United States from 2001 to 2010, and almost nine in 10 were for possession.

Arrests for marijuana possession rose last year nationwide even as Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and DC became the first states to legalize personal use of marijuana. And let’s be clear that there is a racial component to this situation. Although about the same proportion of blacks and whites use marijuana, a black person is almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person.

In other words, as we try to understand why our prison population today is disproportionately black and Latino, one of the reasons is that because of overpoliced black neighborhoods, African-Americans are much more likely to be arrested than whites. Here’s the simple truth: an upper middle class white kid in Scarsdale, NY, has a much, much lower chance of being arrested for smoking marijuana than a lower-income black kid in Chicago or Baltimore. Those are just the facts.

M. President, too many Americans in this country have seen their lives destroyed because they have criminal records as a result of marijuana use. That’s wrong. That has got to change.

Let’s be clear: a criminal record could mean not only jail time, but much, much more. If a person has a criminal record, it will be much harder for that person later in life to get a job. Many employers simply will not hire somebody with a criminal record. If somebody has a criminal record, it may be impossible for them to obtain certain types of public benefits. It would be very, very hard to public housing. A criminal record stays with a person for his or her entire life—until the day he or she dies. A criminal record destroys lives.

M. President, right now under the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drug—meaning that it is considered to be a drug that is extremely dangerous. In fact, under the Act, marijuana is considered to be as dangerous as heroin. Now I know that there are conflicting opinions about the impact that marijuana has. I am aware of that. But nobody that I know of seriously believes that marijuana is as dangerous as heroin. That is absurd.

The time is long overdue for us to take marijuana off of the federal government’s list of outlawed drugs. In my view, at a time when Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia have already legalized the personal use of marijuana, every state in this country should have the right to regulate marijuana the same way that state and local laws now govern sales of alcohol and tobacco. Among other things, that means that recognized businesses in states that have legalized marijuana should be fully able to use the banking system without fear of federal prosecution.

In response to the initiatives that Colorado and other states have taken, the Obama administration has essentially allowed these states to go forward and to do what their people have chosen to do. That’s a good step forward, but not good enough, because a new administration with a different point of view could simply go forward and prosecute these marijuana businesses despite what the people in these given states have chosen to do.

What I am saying today is not that the federal government should legalize marijuana throughout the country. This is a decision for the states. And I would hope that many of my colleagues, especially those who express support for states’ rights and our federalist system of government; those who decry the power of the Big Bad federal government in undermining local initiatives, would support my very simple and straightforward legislation, which will be introduced next week. All that this legislation says is that if a state chooses to legalize marijuana, that state should be able to go forward without legal impediments from the federal government.

  • Sinclair

    Go Bernie go. Tell the the way it is.

  • MrPC

    Yes! Even if it’s pretty-far-out-there Bernie, I never thought I’d hear a speech on the Senate floor like this one. If this bill doesn’t quietly disappear in some obscure committee, I’ll be surprised, but it is definitely an important moment.

    • Bongstar420

      Its not “pretty-far-out-there-Bernie”

      thats just the result of the establishments hypnotism campaign

      *Erhem*

      “propaganda” campaign

      Bernies platform is actually far more popular than you might think…heck, its by definition a populist platform

      • MrPC

        Well, I like the guy myself, but seriously doubt he will become president. The good news is he has really pushed the other democrat candidates. Thanks Bernie!!

        • Bongstar420

          OK..just give the pay to play crowd what they want

          Vote for a pub or Hillary because your afraid your candidate can’t win due to lack of establishment support.

          So what if other people change their platforms..they can just change them again

          Change baby..ya

          Can you cite one candidate with a long consistent record of positions like Bernie?

  • HellNo

    For a leading Presidential contender to make such a bold statement prior to the primaries is awesome!
    Now other politicians will see that the sky didn’t fall, and they will work-up the nuts to change their positions as well. This is the beginning of the end for prohibition.

    • Bongstar420

      Its not bold, its reasonable, and it is consistent with the same platform he has always had.

      Now, lets talk about how Hillary’s record is “consistent”

      • peoriadude

        No, this is a big change from his actions in Congress the past 24 years. Before now, Bernie has never supported removing cannabis from the CSA schedules. In his prior 24 years in office, the farthest he has gone was to support moving cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule II. For the better, this is a huge change in his previous platform regarding cannabis, but it is NOT at all consistent with his previous 24 years in Congress.

  • vickia52

    yea!!!!!!!

  • Ricky

    It worked for Trudeau. This should be fun to watch.

    • The Truth

      Amen brother!

  • PhDScientist

    Medical Marijuana is a Wonder Drug for Cancer Patients undergoing Chemotherapy.
    Cancer Patients can’t wait.
    Don’t wait until you get Cancer to get involved in getting Marijuana removed from Schedule 1.
    By then it will be too late for you.

    • Bongstar420

      If it were a wonder drug, they wouldn’t need huge doses all the time

      Really, its a blunt stick

      An actual wonder drug would cure the condition and not get them high..it would do it quickly

      • PhDScientist

        82% of American Oncologists disagree with you.
        Pray to God you never need one.
        Americans, including American Children, are suffering and dying needlessly.
        For Children with Dravet’s Syndrome, Medical Marijuana is a matter of life and death.
        America’s Cancer patients, call it a “Wonder Drug” and a “Gift from God”
        It is IMMORAL to leave Marijuana illegal for even one second longer.
        Its one of the most important MORAL ISSUES of our time.
        Americans who are sick or dying shouldn’t have to purchase their medicine on the “black market”
        This is AMERICA — not the old Soviet Union.
        We’re better than that.
        We need action of the federal level NOW.

  • Stel-1776

    Cannabis should not be scheduled at all, let alone be in Schedule I.

    It is absurd that the Federal Government still classifies cannabis as a Schedule I substance along with Heroin. It is classified in a more dangerous category than Cocaine, Morphine, Opium and Meth. The three required criteria for Schedule I classification are:

    1) The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.

    The dependence rate of cannabis is the lowest of common legal drugs including tobacco, caffeine, alcohol, and many prescription drugs. More important, cannabis does not cause the kind of dependence that we typically associate with the term, like that of alcohol or heroin. It is more similar to that of caffeine, with less symptoms. Cannabis dependence, in the very few who develop it, is relatively mild, and usually not a significant issue or something that requires treatment, unless of course it is court ordered. [Catherine et al. 2011; Lopez-Quintero et al. 2011; Joy et al. 1999; Anthony et al. 1994;]

    2) The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.

    Cannabis has been used as medicine for thousands of years. Despite great difficulty in conducting medical cannabis research, the medicinal efficacy of cannabis is supported by the highest quality evidence. [Hill. 2015] Already 76% of doctors accept using cannabis to treat medical conditions even though it is still illegal in most places. [Adler and Colbert. 2013]. Cannabis is able to treat a wide range of disease, including mood and anxiety disorders, movement disorders such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, neuropathic pain, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury, to cancer, atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, stroke, hypertension, glaucoma, obesity/metabolic syndrome, and osteoporosis, to name just a few. Cannabis is able to do this partially through its action on the newly discovered (thanks to cannabis) endocannabinoid system and the receptors CB1 and CB2 which are found throughout the body. [Pacher et al. 2006; Pamplona 2012; Grotenhermen & Müller-Vahl 2012].

    3) There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.

    On September 6, 1988, after two years of hearings on cannabis rescheduling, DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young concluded that:

    Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man…. Marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with safety under medical supervision. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record.

    Relatively speaking cannabis is a safe drug [Iversen L. 2005]. The evidence is is clear, cannabis does not belong in Schedule I [Grant et al. 2012]. It does not meet any one of the three required criteria.

    Please help bring end this senseless prohibition. The organizations below fight every day to bring us sensible cannabis policies. Help them fight by joining their mailing lists, signing their petitions and writing your legislators when they call for it:

    MPP – The Marijuana Policy Projecthttp://www.mpp.org/
    DPA – Drug Policy Alliancehttp://www.drugpolicy.org/
    NORML – National Organization to Reform Marijuana Lawshttp://norml.org/
    LEAP – Law Enforcement Against Prohibitionhttp://www.leap.cc/

    SOURCES:

    –Adler and Colbert. Medicinal Use of Marijuana — Polling Results. New England Journal of Medicine. 2013.
    –Anthony et al. Comparative epidemiology of dependence on tobacco, alcohol, controlled substances, and inhalants: Basic findings from the National Comorbidity Survey. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology. 1994.
    –Catherine et al. Evaluating Dependence Criteria for Caffeine. J Caffeine Res. 2011.
    –Grant et al. Medical marijuana: clearing away the smoke. Open Neurol J. 2012.
    –Grotenhermen F, Müller-Vahl K. The therapeutic potential of cannabis and cannabinoids. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2012. Review.
    –Hill K. Medical Marijuana for Treatment of Chronic Pain and Other Medical and Psychiatric Problems. A Clinical Review. JAMA. 2015. Review.
    –Iversen L. Long-term effects of exposure to cannabis. Curr Opin Pharmacol. 2005. Review.
    –Joy et al. Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base. Institute of Medicine. 1999.
    –Lopez-Quintero et al. Probability and predictors of transition from first use to dependence on nicotine, alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine: results of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). Drug Alcohol Depend. 2011.
    –Pacher et al. The endocannabinoid system as an emerging target of pharmacotherapy. Pharmacol Rev. 2006. Review.
    –Pamplona FA, Takahashi RN. Psychopharmacology of the endocannabinoids: far beyond anandamide. J Psychopharmacol. 2012. Review.

  • Jeffrey V Jacobsen

    If you go to google and search for this patent US6630507 anyone can see that this plant should not be schedule I and the people who’ve left it there have known for quite awhile now. For Shame… SMH

  • The Truth

    Burnie, our hero.

  • Andrew West

    I’ve gone through cancer treatment before and I’m likely going again. Cannabis makes a huge difference.

    It also occurs to me that if alcohol was just now introduced to the FDA for approval it would never be approved.

    Cannabis has some of the qualities of alcohol, but also has valuable therapeutic benefits. Alcohol does not. Think for a moment about all the people you know with an “alcohol problem.” Now, try to compare that with Cannabis users.

    It’s a plant.

  • One thing I think is important to acknowledge is that marijuana wasn’t added because it was dangerous. It was added at a time when Vietnam war protesters were in the streets smoking pot, and dangerous only to the war effort. Much is true today regarding smoking and pot. In Colorado the law is still designed to keep people from gathering while enjoying there favorite vice of choice. The matters are as much a first amendment issue as it is a health related one.

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