Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton Stress Criminal Justice Reform After Nevada Caucus


Bernie Sanders lost narrowly to Hillary Clinton in Nevada, but he stuck to his common themes in his concession speech, including criminal justice reform. Senator Sanders again stressed the absurdity of people getting criminal records for marijuana offenses while Wall Street crooks don’t suffer any punishment. Former Secretary of State Clinton also mentioned criminal justice reform in her victory speech. Senator Sanders has criticized Clinton for not being progressive enough on cannabis law reform.

The anti-establishment Sanders was more explicit in his denunciation of our current system:

“We have a broken criminal justice system. A system which says that today some kid in Nevada or Vermont gets picked up with some marijuana, that kid will have a police record staying with him his entire life. But if you are a Wall Street executive and your illegal behavior destroys the economy and the lives of millions of people, somehow nothing happens to you. And our job is to bring justice back to the criminal justice system.”

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic-establishment-favored-frontrunner, listed criminal justice during a laundry list of issues she will tackle as president:

“And don’t you think it’s time to face head-on the problem of systemic racism and invest in communities that have been left out and left behind? That means reforming our criminal justice system, our immigration system, ensuring that people with disabilities have the same opportunity to work and fully participate in our society. It means to make sure that nothing holds you back, not debt, not discrimination, not a deck stacked for those at the top.”

Ending the era of mass incarceration will continue to be a major focus of the campaign, especially as the two Democrats vie for African American support as black communities have been decimated by the Drug War and our nation’s flawed criminal justice system. Senator Sanders made significant gains among most demographics, including Hispanics, in Nevada as he was trailing by more than 20 points about a month ago, but Clinton’s support from black voters held strong enough to carry her to victory in the Silver State.

While Michelle Alexander, Ben Jealous, Cornel West and other black civil rights activists argue that Bernie Sanders has the better policies to improve the lives of African Americans, we shall see if Sanders has enough time to turn the tide with black voters as the race moves into South Carolina and throughout the South. We will certainly hear a lot about Bernie Sanders racial and criminal justice platform as well as his long history fighting for civil rights over the coming weeks.

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.