Bernie Sanders Had The Best Response To A Question About Legalizing Marijuana In Puerto Rico
Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders stopped by Puerto Rico on Monday to campaign ahead of its primary on June 5. While the U.S. territory’s debt crisis and economic struggles have been a paramount topic of discussion throughout his visit, Sanders took the time to address marijuana legalization when an audience member at his speech in San Juan asked if he intended to legalize the drug if elected.
“If elected, would you decriminalize marijuana at a federal level?” a translator asked Sanders.
The candidate’s response was short but sweet: “Si.” This word might be one of the few Spanish words the Vermont senator knows, but in the moment, it was the only one his delighted audience wanted to hear.
“You see, my Spanish is good enough to know that word,” Sanders said, amidst laughter and cheers from the crowd.
He admitted to not knowing “too much” about the state of marijuana use in Puerto Rico, but discussed how, in the US, “over the last 30 years, millions of people have incurred police records for possession of marijuana. And if you have a police record, it’s hard to go out and get a job. I have introduced legislation that would take marijuana out of the Federal Controlled Substance Act.”
See for yourself in the video below.
“You’ve got marijuana and heroin together, that is pretty crazy in my mind,” Sanders said of the Act.
Not only would marijuana legalization dramatically lower the amount of arrests for non-violent crimes, but it would also contribute to alleviating mass incarceration, a serious issue in the United States where “almost 500,000 people are behind bars for a drug law violation on any given night” according to the Drug Policy Alliance.
More relevant to Puerto Rico, which currently has a 12.2 percent unemployment rate, legalized recreational marijuana could potentially create jobs and fund various education and public health initiatives, as it has in states where the drug is legal.
For her own part, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton supports reclassifying marijuana from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 in the Federal Controlled Substance Act, but doesn’t support legalization of recreational weed.
Prior to the Q and A session, Sanders focused heavily on both the economic situation of the island territory and its relationship with the United States.
“It is unacceptable to me for the United States government to treat Puerto Rico like a colony during a time when its people are facing the worst fiscal and economic crisis in its history. In my view, the people of Puerto Rico must be empowered to determine their own destiny,” he told supporters, and went on to criticize Wall Street and those demanding full repayment of a $70 billion debt burden from the island:
“It is unacceptable to me that vulture funds on Wall Street are demanding that Puerto Rico fire teachers, close schools, cut pensions and abolish the minimum wage so that they can reap huge profits off the suffering and the misery of the children and the people of Puerto Rico. We cannot allow that to happen. We will not allow that to happen.”
The Elite Daily points out that while territories like Puerto Rico can vote in primary elections, despite being US citizens, they are prohibited from voting in the general election.