Bernie Sanders Calls for a Political Revolution, Ending the Drug War


The 2016 presidential election is a pivotal event for the future of the cannabis community and greater Drug War reforms. Just as it was critical to have the Obama Administration allow the implementation of legalization in Washington, Colorado, Oregon and Alaska, the next president will have a tremendous influence upon the next wave of states voting to regulate marijuana.  As civil libertarians and those interested in a new approach toward marijuana and the War on Drugs, start to consider presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders certainly looks like the candidate to consider on the Democratic side and likely the best candidate overall.

Senator Sanders has had a long political career that includes executive experience as a mayor and then many years in Congress, both as a representative and a senator. Sanders was expressing progressive views on gay rights and the Drug War forty years ago, clearly ahead of his time. At first, no political pundit would give Sanders any hope of defeating the Hillary Clinton political machine, but now, the large crowds he attracts, his fundraising and rising polling numbers have shown that he could give Clinton a run for her money. In Portland, Maine, yesterday, a town hall meeting turned into a big rally that had to be delayed so more people could be let in. It is estimated that up to 9,000 people turned out to listen to the Vermont Senator call for a political revolution. Bangor Daily News reports:

Sanders said his goal was to create a movement in the tradition of the abolitionists, suffragettes, civil rights activists and union organizers. “If we want real change, it’s not just electing someone — hopefully me,” he said to laughs. “No one in the White House will have the power to take on Wall Street alone, corporate America alone, the billionaire classes alone. The only way that change takes place is when we develop that strong grass-roots movement, make that political revolution, stand together, and then we bring about change.”

Sanders touted his progressive bona fides, promoting an increased minimum wage, protections for access to abortion and an end to the war on drugs. He railed against trade agreements that saw American jobs moved overseas, and promised to fight for free public college education and universal health care, paid sick time and paid maternity leave. He swore to unequivocally pursue energy policy to fight climate change.

But it was income inequality that Sanders called “the great moral issue of our time.”

(Emphasis mine)

Bernie Sanders’ messaging should resonate with anyone that wants to reform our drug laws. The Drug War has been waged upon people of color and people battling poverty. Income inequality rears its head in tragic ways when someone is arrested for drugs. If you are poor and can’t afford an attorney, the consequences for you and your family can be devastating, but if you are rich and can hire the best attorneys in town, odds are you won’t see the inside of a prison cell. When is the last time you have heard of a wealthy person serving prison time for drugs?

The narrative surrounding Bernie Sanders is changing rapidly and I urge all of his supporters to publicly tout his candidacy. It is possible that Sanders could win the Iowa Caucus, where motivation and passion of supporters is key and the Clinton team is already concerned (rightfully so, as she finished third behind Barack Obama and John Edwards in 2008). Sanders could definitely win the New Hampshire Primary, especially if he does well in Iowa, as the Granite State borders Vermont, giving Sanders better name recognition than in most of the country. If he can pull off two early upsets, then the narrative surrounding the Democratic Primary changes. Many people didn’t think that we would see an African-American president in our lifetime, let alone one with the middle name “Hussein”, so don’t let anyone say that Sanders is “too old”, “too liberal” or that he doesn’t “look presidential.” Political revolutions don’t come easy, but Bernie Sanders is hoping to lead one. The question is, are we willing to follow him?


Anthony Johnson

Anthony, a longtime cannabis law reform advocate, was Chief Petitioner and co-author of Measure 91, Oregon's cannabis legalization effort. He served as director of both the New Approach Oregon and Vote Yes on 91 PACs, the political action committees responsible for the state's legalization campaign. As director of New Approach Oregon, Anthony continues to work towards effectively implementing the cannabis legalization system while protecting small business owners and the rights of patients. He sits on the Oregon Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee and fights for sensible rules at the legislature as well as city councils and county commissions across the state. Anthony helps cannabis business comply with Oregon's laws and advises advocates across the country. He also serves as content director of both the International Cannabis Business Conference and the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference, helping share the vision of moving the cannabis industry forward in a way that maintains the focus on keeping people out of prison and protecting patients. He was a member of the Oregon Health Authority Rules Advisory Committee, assisting the drafting of the administrative rules governing Oregon’s state-licensed medical marijuana facilities. He first co-authored and helped pass successful marijuana law reform measures while a law student at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. He passed the Oregon Bar in 2005 and practiced criminal defense for two years before transitioning to working full-time in the political advocacy realm. His blogs on Marijuana Politics are personal in nature and don't speak for or reflect the opinions of any group or organization.