Bernie Sanders, the populist firebrand Senator for Vermont whose presidential campaign has exploded in recent months, has made history once again by filing the first-ever Senate bill to fully legalize recreational marijuana use. Specifically, it would remove it from the list of prohibited substances, where it shares the severity of destructive drugs like heroin and methamphetamine, and removes federal barriers from states that have already decided to decriminalize the popular drug, but still leaves the door open for states to prohibit its use if their legislators so desire.
“The time is long overdue for us to take marijuana off the federal government’s list of outlawed drugs. In my view, states should have the right to regulate marijuana the same way that state and local laws now govern sales of alcohol and tobacco” Sanders told the Washington Post. Other bills have been proposed to decriminalize, or legalize only medical marijuana, but this is the first bill to fully legalize the popular plant.
Far too many lives have been ruined by the harsh policing of marijuana, and too many billions of taxpayer dollars wasted in persecuting minor drug offenders – which disproportionately punish African Americans, who are three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites. Enforcing marijuana laws also costs our nation $3.6 billion dollars a year, for little to no result. 23 states have legalized the use of medical marijuana; four have legalized it entirely. The experiments in Colorado and Washington states have resulted in huge boosts in tax revenue. There’s really no reason for us to continue wallowing in Reagan-era paranoia and let the people of America use marijuana if they so choose. It’s not like forty years of the War On Drugs has had any success up to this point.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.