U.S.: Sanders Becomes 1st Major Party Presidential Candidate To Support Marijuana Legalization
By Steve Elliott
Candidate Bernie Sanders, for the first time in this campaign, on Tuesday night indicated at the Democratic presidential debate that he supports marijuana legalization.
When asked how he would vote on an initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol that is set to appear on the Nevada ballot in 2016, Senator Sanders said he would likely vote "Yes."
Hillary Clinton was asked if she has taken a position on such proposals, now that it has been a year since she said she wanted to wait to see what happens in Colorado and Washington. She said she was undecided on the issue, but that we should stop imprisoning people for pot use. She also said she supports medical marijuana.
The other three candidates in the debate, Lincoln Chafee, Martin O’Malley, and Jim Webb, were not given the opportunity to answer questions regarding marijuana policy.
"This is the first time we've seen a major candidate for president say he'd probably vote for legalizing marijuana if given the chance," said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority. "That says a lot about how far the politics on this issue have shifted in a very short amount of time.
"As a point of reference, in 2008 no major candidate even supported decriminalization when asked in a debate, and our movement had to chase them around New Hampshire and repeatedly harass them just to garner pledges to stop federal raids on state-legal medical marijuana patients," Angell said. "Legalization is at the forefront of mainstream American politics, and politicians are starting to treat it as such.”
National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) executive director Aaron Smith pointed out a consensus developing among the presidential candidates in both major parties.
“Despite differing specifics on marijuana policy, nearly every presidential candidate - Democrat and Republican - has now offered support for the continuation of state policy reforms,” Smith said. “Given that the 2016 election is likely to result in several new states with legal medical or adult-use marijuana programs, that’s a critical piece of progress.”
“This marks the first time a major-party presidential candidate has clearly expressed support for ending marijuana prohibition and regulating marijuana like alcohol," said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "The people have typically led the politicians on this issue, and finally we’re seeing a presidential candidate who appears to have caught up with them.
“Marijuana is far safer than alcohol for the consumer and society, and it should not be controversial to support treating it that way," Tvert said. "Politicians are evolving on this issue, and Sen. Sanders is the first presidential candidate to stop dragging their knuckles when it comes to marijuana policy.”
“This is no longer a controversial issue," said Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for MPP. "A solid majority of Americans support making marijuana legal for adults, and the vast majority believe states should be able to do it without interference from the federal government.
“Allowing states to establish their own marijuana policies is one of the only things Republicans and Democrats agree on," Riffle said. "Presidential candidates like Chris Christie, who says he would try to roll back the progress that has been made in states like Colorado and Washington, are sorely out of touch with the country. They’re also at odds with most in their own party.”