U.S.: Sen. Bernie Sanders To Introduce Legislation To End Federal Marijuana Prohibition
First-Ever Bill Introduced In Senate To Legalize Marijiuana; Second Major Cannabis Reform Bill Introduced in the Senate This Year
Support for Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Continues to Grow
Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders is to announce at a Wednesday town hall meeting that he is introducing legislation in the Senate that would remove marijuana from the list of federally controlled substances, end federal marijuana prohibition, and let states set their own policies without federal interference.
The bill, which could be introduced as early as Thursday, is expected to be similar to a 2011 bill introduced in the U.S. House by Democrat Barney Frank and Republican Ron Paul known then as the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act. It would be the first bill ever introduced in the U.S. Senate to end the failed war on marijuana.
“Clearly Bernie Sanders has looked at the polls showing voter support for marijuana legalization,” said Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Action, the political arm of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Marijuana reform was already moving forward in Congress but we expect this bill to give reform efforts a big boost.”
Earlier this year sweeping legislation known as the CARERS Act was introduced by Senators Rand Paul, Cory Booker, and Kristen Gillibrand that would legalize marijuana for medical use. Several spending amendments allowing states to set their own marijuana policies without federal interference have already passed the U.S. House and/or the Senate Appropriations Committee this year.
Senate Republicans included several marijuana reforms in their recent "minibus" spending package, including prohibiting the DEA from undermining state medical marijuana laws, requiring the Veterans Administration to allow veterans to use medical marijuana, and prohibiting the Treasury Department from blocking banks from providing checking accounts to state-legalized marijuana dispensaries.
According to a new Gallup poll, a majority of Americans continue to say marijuana use should be legal in the United States, with 58 percent in support, tying the high point in Gallup's 46 years of polling on the subject. These results are consistent with other state and national polls, both public and private, in recent months.
Polls have consistently shown public support for medical marijuana ranging from 70 to 90 percent over the past two decades.
Twenty-three states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico have legalized medical marijuana. In November of 2012, residents of Colorado and Washington took the historic step of deciding to permit the legal regulation of marijuana cultivation and sales for adults 21 and older. Alaska, Oregon and Washington D.C. voted to legalize marijuana in 2014, and other states are likely to follow suit in the coming years.
“As more states legalize marijuana for medical or non-medical use the pressure to change federal law will continue to grow,” Bill Piper, director of national affairs at Drug Policy Action said. “There is a clear bi-partisan majority in Congress for letting states set their own marijuana policies.”