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Bernie Sanders Unveils Plan To Legalize Marijuana, Vacate Past Convictions

Natan Ponieman

Bernie Sanders, Democratic presidential candidate and independent senator from Vermont, released a plan Thursday to legalize marijuana within his first 100 days in office if he's elected. 

The time of the release? 4:20 p.m.

Sanders' plan would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substance Act, while also expunging past convictions for cannabis and cannabis-related crimes.

The plan emphasizes the inequality created by the war on drugs, noting the disproportionate consequences such policies continue to have on communities of color.

The legalization proposal aims to balance these inequalities by reinvesting tax money from legal cannabis into communities that were badly affected.

“We're going to legalize marijuana and end the horrifically destructive war on drugs. It has disproportionately targeted people of color and ruined the lives of millions of Americans,” Sanders said in a statement on social media. 

A Gallup Poll published earlier this week revealed that 66% of Americans favor nationwide marijuana legalization.

Sanders, who is competing against 18 other candidates for the Democratic Party nomination in 2020, also said his office would take measures to prevent the cannabis business from developing into something akin to Big Tobacco.

Expungement Of Past Convictions

Under Sanders' plan, the federal government would follow California's model of reviewing federal and state marijuana convictions and resentencing all incarcerated individuals. 

Federal funding would be granted to states and cities for partnerships with organizations that can assist in the expungement process, similar to California’s partnership with the nonprofit Code for America. 

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Reinvesting Cannabis Revenue In Communities Of Color

In total, Sanders' plan would dedicate approximately $50 billion to communities of color that have been affected by the war on drugs.

recent study by cannabis research firm New Frontier Data concluded that, with a 15% retail sales tax on legal marijuana, payroll tax deductions and business tax revenue, the legal cannabis industry could generate at least $132 billion in tax revenue in an eight-year time frame. 

“When we’re in the White House, we’re going to end the greed and corruption of the big corporations and make sure that Americans hit hardest by the war on drugs will be the first to benefit from legalization,” Sanders said. 

$20 billion would go to creating a grant program that would give incentives to entrepreneurs of color.

Another $10 billion would go to a grant program dedicated to assisting businesses owned by people impacted by the war on drugs, and providing education and training to individuals with marijuana convictions.

Two more $10-billion funds would go to ensuring people impacted by the war on drugs are not left out of the cannabis industry.

Limiting The 'Big Tobacco' Effect

The proposal includes providing incentives to cannabis companies that are structured as nonprofits or cooperatives, and establishing market share and franchise caps to avoid “consolidation and profiteering.”

Sanders' plan intends to prohibit products targeted at young people and to ban tobacco companies from participating in the cannabis industry.

Related Links:

Bernie Sanders Tells Joe Rogan He'll Legalize Marijuana If President

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Photo by Dustin Blitchok. 

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