Vermont Senator and presidential candidate hopeful Bernie Sanders introduced a bill to the United States Senate on Wednesday that would end the federal prohibition on marijuana and allow states to vote on medical and recreational marijuana use without having any sort of federal intervention. It’s the first time a bill has been introduced that would formally end federal prohibition and is yet another step towards ending the war on drugs Sanders has had a hand in.
In a recent Gallup poll, public support of legal marijuana is at an all-time high of 58 percent. This makes the timing for Sanders’ bill perfect, especially with the upcoming presidential election.
The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, if approved, would formally remove marijuana from its current Schedule I status and leave the decision to legalize marijuana – medically or recreationally – solely in the hands of individual states. However, it would still mean shipping and transporting marijuana is illegal.
Just last week at an event at George Mason University, Sanders called for the government to remove marijuana as a Schedule I drug, now he’s doing something about it.
“In the United States, we have 2.2 million people in jail today, more than any other country. And we’re spending $80 billion a year to lock people up. We need major changes in our criminal justice system…including changes in drug laws,” Sanders said at the event. ” Too many Americans have seen their lives destroyed because they have criminal records as a result of marijuana use. That’s wrong. That has got to change.”
Coming just days after Ohio rejected marijuana legalization, it shows that one negative decision regarding the legalization of marijuana in a state doesn’t represent the overall nationwide opinion. Founder of Marijuana Majority, Tom Angell, agrees.
“The introduction of (Sanders’) bill proves the defeat of the Ohio marijuana monopoly measure that wasn’t widely supported in our movement isn’t doing anything to slow down our national momentum,” Angell said. “A growing majority of Americans want states to be able to enact their own marijuana laws without harassment from the DEA and lawmakers should listen.”
Director of communications at the Marijuana Policy Project Mason Tvert likened marijuana to alcohol and believes it should be treated as such.
“Sen. Sanders is simply proposing that we treat marijuana similarly to how we treat alcohol at the federal level, leaving most of the details to the states,” Tvert told the Huffington Post. “It is a common sense proposal that is long overdue in the Senate.”
With an average time of 263 days for a bill to be passed in the Senate, nothing is expected to happen soon. But with the 2016 Presidential Election happening in just over a year from now, it could come at a pivotal time should Sanders make it out of the Democratic primary as the presidential candidate representing the party.