In a huge step forward for marijuana supporters, Bernie Sanders changed his position on marijuana last month, choosing to endorse marijuana legalization and the removal of marijuana from federal prohibition.
Unlike rival democratic candidates who have avoided the subject of marijuana, like the plague, Sanders' key-note statements addressing injustices of the current marijuana situation in the United States, did more than just raise the eyebrows of those watching from any of the 250 online student meeting groups present at his last speech.
(See a priceless reaction below)
The War on Drugs Has Failed
Speaking to students at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, Sanders wasted no time voicing his core reasons for proposing to let states regulate marijuana in the same manner as tobacco or alcohol, basing many of his conclusions from national statistics surrounding marijuana related arrests in the current legal system.
Whether referencing the 620,000 arrests made last year for simple possession, the 8 million total arrests from 2001 to 2010, or the fact that someone is arrested in the U.S. every minute for a non-violent marijuana charge, Sanders left no stone un-turned in detailing the failed war on drugs' policies and the multitude of discrepancies in the prison industrial complex.
“In the United States we have 2.2 million people in jail today, more than any other country. And we’re spending about $80 billion a year to lock people up. We need major changes in our criminal justice system including changes in drug laws,” said Sanders.
According to the Senator's latest proposal, those of us in legalized states would no longer be held accountable under federal law for marijuana possession, and marijuana businesses would finally have access to a banking system.
Disproportionate Arrest Rates
In the more controversial aspects of his speech, the 74 year old presidential hopeful mentioned the racial disparity between whites and blacks, citing the fact that blacks are 4 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than their white counterparts, despite the fact that both segments of the population use the plant equally.
“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,” Sanders added in his speech.
Sanders started his career in politics during the civil rights movement, when he was an organizer for the SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) in the 1960's, and is one of only two current U.S. Senators to have walked with Dr. Martin Luther King when he gave his now infamous "I Have A Dream" speech.
If there's anyone who can champion the voice for marijuana reform by making it acceptable federally, Sanders most definitely has the resume and knack for inducing social change, to make it a reality.
You can see highlights from his speech endorsing marijuana legalization (here