Bernie Sanders Shares Plan to Legalize Cannabis
Gage Skidmore

Bernie Sanders Shares Plan to Legalize Cannabis

If elected president, Sanders would keep the focus in the cannabis industry on small business development and social equity.

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October 25, 2019

As cannabis reform maintains its place in (or at least near) the spotlight of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary race, candidates are beginning to narrow the focus of what they mean when they stake claims to these platforms.

This week, Bernie Sanders unveiled a comprehensive plan to legalize cannabis at the federal level and institute guardrails to keep Big Tobacco on the sidelines. Sanders has been a cannabis reform supporter for years; here, he’s wrapping his small business development and social equity policy goals into that broader picture. 

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

According to CNN polling, Sanders remains among the top three candidates in the horse race—just behind Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden. Warren has pledged to deschedule cannabis through executive order, but she has not issued a plan on the scale of Sanders’ latest announcement. Biden has not signaled any support for cannabis legalization.

Here's the plan Sanders outlined this week:

  • Ensure that revenue from legal marijuana is reinvested in communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs;
  • Use taxes on legal marijuana sales to fund a $20 billion grant program within the Minority Business Development Agency to: 
    • provide grants to entrepreneurs of color who face discrimination in access to capital;
    • provide grants to individuals who have been arrested for or convicted of marijuana-related offenses;
    • promote businesses in disproportionately impacted areas;
    • provide job training and guarantee jobs for formerly incarcerated individuals; 
  • Eliminate drug testing requirements from public benefits and ensure people cannot be removed from public housing for marijuana use; 
  • Eliminate the consequences of a marijuana record related to immigration;
  • Encourage cooperatives and collective nonprofits businesses to create local economic growth;
  • Institute market share and franchise caps to prevent consolidation and profiteering;