Bernie Sanders: Would Vote Yes on Marijuana Legalization Because Drug War is Destroying Lives


Millions of Americans tuned into the Democratic presidential debate tonight to hear about the major issues facing our nation. Cannabis law reformers were waiting for the Democrats to discuss marijuana legalization and Anderson Cooper even teased the cannabis question over a commercial break, stating that, “Some of the candidates have tried marijuana, as has probably everybody in this room.”

Bustle added some flair to Cooper’s statement on Twitter:

Bernie Sanders was asked whether he would vote for marijuana legalization if he were a Nevada resident and the insurgent candidate didn’t disappoint the Drug War reformers that have flocked to his campaign. “I would vote yes because I am seeing in this country, too many lives being destroyed for nonviolent offenses. We have a criminal justice system that lets CEOs on Wall Street walk away and yet we are imprisoning or giving jail sentences to young people for smoking marijuana. I think we have to think through this War on Drugs which has done an enormous amount of damage. We need to rethink our criminal justice system and we have a lot of work to do in that area.”

Hillary Clinton was then asked whether she was ready to take a position on marijuana legalization tonight and the former Secretary of State answered emphatically, “No.” Clinton did go on to discuss her support for medical marijuana and the need to reform our criminal justice system. Unfortunately, none of the other candidates, Jim Webb, Lincoln Chafee, or Martin O’Malley, were asked about marijuana, as I tweeted at the time:  

Marijuana legalization, the greater Drug War, civil liberties and criminal justice reform were all discussed in the first debate and will continue to be major issues brought before the Democratic candidates in future debates. Bernie Sanders made reforming our criminal justice system a foundation of his campaign tonight, mentioning the issue several times. It will be interesting to see how voters react to the candidates’ stances tonight and how they handle these important issues in future debates. 

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.