With just two days remaining for the Iowa caucus, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is pledging to legalize marijuana in all 50 states immediately if he is elected to the White House.
The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate said at a rally in Cedar Rapids that they will end the destructive war on drugs. He went on to claim that on his first day of the office, he would legalize marijuana in every state of the country via executive order.
Sanders emphasized that it would be crucial for his administration to end cannabis prohibition in a way that aids the communities harmed by the drug’s war enforcement. He further said he would move forward to expunge the records of those who were arrested for marijuana possession and will ensure that the legalized marijuana industry is not controlled by some corporations.
Instead, he would help those people- belonging from the Latino community, the African-American community, and the Native American community- who have suffered the wrath of drugs the most in order to make money through legalized marijuana.
Despite the high claims made by Sanders, it is far from clear how he would actually be able to accomplish unilateral federal legalization of marijuana, let alone curb the prohibition in every state or get it instantly done on his first day.
Marijuana legalization has come following the “green revolution” caused due to hemp legalization back in December 2018 under the Farm Act when the federal government removed hemp from the list of controlled substances. However, hemp is a Cannabis Sativa plant, a genus of marijuana with a relatively lower concentration of THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana responsible for causing the “high” when users smoke weed or pot.
Despite the legalization of hemp, the federal government set stringent regulations for the use of THC with a maximum of 0.3% per dry weight above which the product would be considered illegal. Contrary to THC, Cannabidiol or CBD is a non-psychoactive and anti-inflammatory substance with potential healing properties without causing hallucinations or euphoria like THC.
Many people use CBD to treat their stress, anxiety, sleep problems, depression, inflammation, muscle pain, spasms, injuries, and many other ailments. CBD is also widely popular for alleviating the symptoms of life-threatening diseases such as cancer, epilepsy, Tourette and Alzheimer’s.
Though there is a lack of evidence that supports the medical claims of CBD, there is sufficient research to back them up. Experts continue researching the long term or side effects of CBD and how it reacts with other pharmaceutical substances.
As for the hefty claims made by Sanders, the executive branch has an authority under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to reclassify cannabis without seeking further action from Congress, however, the details of the process involve steps by the health and human services secretary and the attorney general. Sander’s designees are unlikely to be installed on his “first day”.
Changing the entire marijuana landscape also means that international drug treaties would be altered and complicate moves by an administration that completely wants to reschedule marijuana from the CSA.
Additionally, when it comes to implementing the legalization in every state, the President can’t pressurize or force the repeal of local criminalization laws. Each state holds its own power to decide the amendments in its criminal laws and the lack of presidential power further raises doubts about the statement made by Sanders.
Sanders also mentioned at an earlier campaign on Saturday afternoon that he would swiftly legalize marijuana and take necessary executive actions while jokingly saying that he would tell his wife on the inauguration day he would get late that night.
Moreover, The Washington Post reported earlier this week that top Sanders campaign aides include federal legalization of marijuana in a list of possible executive orders in early 2021 given he wins the presidency.
Sander’s claims are not mere words. In 2015, during his last campaign for the White House, he had filed the Senate’s first-ever marijuana decriminalization and became the first major presidential candidate to support the legalization of marijuana.
While Sanders has made one of the boldest plans focused on marijuana legalization in 2020 – previously he had pledged to accomplish federal legalization within 100 days- he isn’t the only one who has made strong claims. His rival candidates have also made extreme promises focused on ending the criminalization of other drugs.
When pressed about formally decriminalizing other substances, the senator said he isn’t there yet.
On the other hand, Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, included decriminalizing possession of all drugs in his mental health and racial justice plans. Rep. Meanwhile, Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) said she supports legalizing and regulating currently illicit drugs.
Entrepreneurs Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang, also presidential candidates back decriminalizing opioids for harm reduction measure. Yang also said he would legalize the therapeutic use of psilocybin mushrooms for military veterans.