Democratic presidential candidates addressed significant issues at the heart of cannabis legalization at the first Democratic debate in Las Vegas last night, including one statement from Bernie Sanders that has the potential to push the national needle.
Both Sanders and frontrunner Hillary Clinton made significant statements around medical marijuana, broader legalization, and the imprisonment of non-violent offenders. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was asked how he would vote on the 2016 ballot to legalize recreational cannabis in Nevada, if he had the opportunity. His response pleased the live audience and has encouraged cannabis advocates to herald it as a major step towards state-by-state legalization.
“I suspect I would vote yes. And I would vote yes because I am seeing in this country too many lives being destroyed for non-violent 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 who are 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 got a lot of work to do in that area.”
Former Secretary of State Clinton was more cautious, reiterating that she had never tried cannabis (and didn’t plan on starting now). However, she did advocate for the continued monitoring of the results from Colorado and Washington with regards to recreational cannabis.
“I think that we have the opportunity, through the states that are pursuing recreational marijuana, to find out a lot more than we know today.”
Clinton was more definitive about the use of medical marijuana, but again called for more research in the area.
“I do support the use of medical marijuana, and I think that even there, we do need to do a lot more research to know exactly how we’re going to help people for whom marijuana provides relief.”
Later on, she doubled down on the need to reassess non-violent offenders spending time in prison.
“I agree completely with the idea that we have got to stop imprisoning people who use marijuana. Therefore we need more states, cities and the federal government to begin to address this so that we don’t have this terrible result that Senator Sanders was talking about where we have a huge population in our prisons for non-violent, low level offences that are primarily due to marijuana.”
The topic of cannabis legalization will continue to bubble up for presidential candidates, as legalization movements across multiple states pick up steam in the run up to the 2016 election. Check out Leafly’s State of the Leaf to stay abreast of each state’s legalization status.
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