Democrats Include A Path To Marijuana Legalization In Their Platform In Another Surprising Nod To Sanders
Despite his loss in the primary for the Democratic nomination, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has scored notable victories in shaping the party platform. The platform will include policies actively campaigned for by Sanders over the past year, including raising the minimum wage to $15, expanding Social Security benefits, establishing stricter sanctions for Wall Street fraud, and even abolishing the death penalty — all policies rival and presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton either didn’t support or was lukewarm about. As of Saturday, in another surprising nod to Sanders’ progressive vision for the future, the Democratic platform will include a path to marijuana legalization through an amendment to the Controlled Substances Act proposed by David King, a lawyer appointed to the committee by Sanders.
This “reasoned pathway to future legalization” of marijuana will call for the drug to be downgraded in the Controlled Substances Act, “policies that will allow more research on marijuana,” and reforming current laws “to allow legal marijuana businesses to exist without uncertainty.”
King originally argued that marijuana was added to the act and unreasonably assigned the same legal classification as heroin solely to hurt “hippies and blacks,” and he’s not wrong. The historic War on Drugs is famous for its racial undertones, and disproportionately greater policing and harsher sentences dealt toward African-Americans.
By admission of a top Nixon aide from a 22-year-old interview, the drug war was literally nothing but a mechanism through which the government could legally persecute “black people” and “the antiwar left” back in the ’70s. Today, while “almost 500,000 people are behind bars for a drug law violation on any given night” according to the Drug Policy Alliance, even if minor drug offenders dodge prison sentences, they’re still bound to face costly discrimination while searching for jobs or a place to live.
The proposed amendment could not only save the federal government from continuing to pour trillions of dollars into arresting and imprisoning countless Americans for the oh-so-terrible crime of owning a plant, but its legal protections to “allow marijuana businesses to exist without uncertainty” could pave the way for staggering economic growth. The legal retail marijuana industry is projected to reach $4.5 billion this year alone, and apart from creating jobs by employing roughly 100,000 Americans according estimates from those in the industry, in states like Colorado where recreational marijuana is legal for adults, a 10 percent sales tax and additional 15 percent excise tax on recreational pot raised $44 million in 2014 and $66 million by 2015. Much of this money went to education and public health initiatives.
“Policies that will allow more research on marijuana,” a component of the amendment, are likely to be just as, if not more, beneficial. Already known medical benefits of marijuana range from the drug’s proven ability to kill cancer cells and offer relief to those suffering from seizures and paralysis, to its ability to lower body mass index, help women’s sex lives, and help people exercise. This is already in spite of the fact that stigma around marijuana from the war on drugs stalled research of it in America for years.
Despite its reputation tracing back to the Nixon-era for being dangerous, there has yet to be a case of anyone dying from overdosing on marijuana, while alcohol and tobacco have literally claimed countless lives and are known to increase one’s chances of getting cancer.
Clinton herself openly supports reclassifying marijuana from “Schedule 1″ to “Schedule 2″ in the Federal Controlled Substance Act, but does not support legalization of recreational weed. Late last year, Sanders introduced a bill to Congress that would altogether remove marijuana from the U.S. government’s current list of the most dangerous drugs and allow states to legalize medical or recreational cannabis without federal intervention.
Sanders has also been a vocal critic of the crippling, lasting legal consequences suffered by individuals simply for possessing marijuana, compared with lax consequences suffered by Wall Street executives.
The Vermont senator recently expressed his approval for the amendment in a Facebook post, sharing The Washington Post’s article on the inclusion of marijuana legalization in the Democratic party platform with the caption: “Millions of people have been arrested for using marijuana. That is absurd and it is destroying lives. It’s time to end the federal ban on marijuana.”