Bernie Sanders Still Strong on Criminal Justice Reform After Leading a National Poll for the First Time


Bernie Sanders continued the messages and policy proposals that have helped him surge in the polls in tonight’s MSNBC Democratic Town Hall in Las Vegas, Nevada. Unlike some politicians that tend to “play it safe” when taking a lead in a poll, Senator Sanders stayed consistent on marijuana legalization and criminal justice reform after taking questions from the town hall audience members. (Marijuana Majority’s Tom Angell blogged the town hall tonight, so I’ve embedded some of his tweets.)

Knowing Senator Sanders’ history, it shouldn’t have surprised me to hear a strong, mainstream presidential candidate forcefully call for racial and criminal justice policy reforms, including stopping the use of private prisons; demilitarizing local law enforcement; federal investigations of police brutality; and ending federal cannabis prohibition by removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances. I was still somewhat taken aback when I heard the anti-establishment candidate take on the prison-industrial-complex and the New Jim Crow policies that have decimated black communities, and the poor of every color.

Even a Sanders supporter like myself is too used to politics as usual, that I almost expected the Vermont Senator to shy away from mentioning marijuana after taking a lead in a major national poll for the first time. It could be a testament to his consistent nature or good political instincts, Senator Sanders stuck by his bold Drug War and criminal justice policy reforms.

Marijuana legalization and racial justice policies are good for Sanders politically as well, as the issues are extremely popular with Democrats, millennial voters and independents. Bernie Sanders was advocating for important, sound criminal justice policies, just as he has throughout the campaign, while enjoying the opportunity play good politics as well, making him the winner of the town hall tonight, simply by staying consistent to his principles.

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.