“In my view, the time is long overdue for us to remove the federal prohibition on marijuana,” Sanders said.

Bernie Sanders recently announced a change to his marijuana policy, and it seemed to catch some in the crowd by surprise. Sanders wants to legalize weed across the entire country, stop locking people up and ruining lives over a plant that has killed zero people ever.

Video by Young Turks

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Bernie Sanders Spotlights Student Marijuana Essays

BY TOM ANGELL ON

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders took time away from the campaign trail on Wednesday to highlight the voices of young people who say marijuana should be legalized.

The Vermont independent, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, entered the essays of five students from his state into the Congressional Record. Two of the pieces argue that it’s time to change marijuana laws.

Mikayla Clarke, a senior at Bellows Falls Union High School, pointed to the economic benefits of legalization. “By legalizing marijuana, many more job opportunities would open and a whole new industry is created,” she wrote. “The amount that the whole country would make would be in the billions.”

Megan Bromley, a senior at Milton Senior High School, argued that ending the war on marijuana can free up jail space and police time, which would allow the criminal justice system to put more focus on stopping and solving sexual assault. “We are pouring millions of dollars into our state and federal prison systems and too much of that is going towards people for up to twenty years for marijuana possession,” she wrote. “However I propose to use the funding instead to evaluate something such as unprocessed rape kits and begin to treat minor drug use in a proactive manner. Marijuana possession should be removed as a state and federal crime and result in no jail time.”

The pieces are finalists in Sanders’s sixth annual State of the Union Essay Contest. The essays by the three winners and 17 finalists are available on Sanders’s Senate website. In all, nearly 800 entires from 39 high schools were received.

A third finalist in the contest also argued for marijuana law reform, but her essay hasn’t yet been entered into the Congressional Record. “While people often say marijuana is a gateway drug, I strongly disagree,” wrote Alexis Manchester, a junior at Green Mountain Technology and Career Center. “There are more people that drink a glass a milk per day and become addicted to more serious drugs, than those who use marijuana.”

In a press release announcing the winners, Sanders said, “As is always the case, I am so impressed by the wide range of issues students wrote about this year, and by the quality of the essays. While there is no shortage of obstacles facing the United States, it is heartening to see so many young Vermonters thinking about the direction we need to go as a nation.”

Sanders himself believes that states should be able to legalize marijuana without federal interference and has sponsored legislation to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act. He also said that he would personally vote to legalize marijuana if it were on the ballot.

To find out what else Sanders and other presidential contenders have said about cannabis law reform, check out Marijuana.com’s comprehensive candidate tracker.

Article source Marijuana.com

Why Bernie Sanders’ marijuana proposal would be a big deal

 October 28, 2015

Bernie Sanders has been hinting for months now that he’ll have more to say on marijuana in the 2016 election. Tonight, it looks like he’ll finally say it.

Sanders will call for marijuana to be removed from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s schedule of controlled substances. Doing so would be a big deal for marijuana policy in this country. While it wouldn’t legalize marijuana at the federal level per se, it would allow states to pursue their own marijuana policies free of most federal interference. The DEA classifies marijuana as a schedule 1 drug because it says that the drug has no medically accepted use and high potential for abuse. It’s regulated more tightly than other drugs that are far more deadly and less medically useful, like cocaine, opium and methamphetamines.

“The time is long overdue for us to take marijuana off the federal government’s list of outlawed drugs,” he said in prepared remarks given to the Post by his campaign. “In my view, states should have the right to regulate marijuana the same way that state and local laws now govern sales of alcohol and tobacco.”

Here are seven things that would change if marijuana were removed from the DEA’s schedule:

1. The DEA would stop raiding marijuana businesses and customers.

Already, they’re not supposed to be doing this when it comes to medical marijuana providers. Measures attached to last year’s “cromnibus” spending bill were meant to prevent the Department of Justice from pursuing legal actions against medical marijuana businesses in compliance with applicable state laws. But the department has effectively ignored those guidelines this year, prompting a stern rebuke from a federal judge earlier this month.

Recreational marijuana businesses don’t have the congressional protections afforded to medical providers. The Department of Justice has advised federal prosecutors to use discretion when pursuing marijuana cases, and to focus primarily on cases where marijuana is being distributed to minors, trafficked to states where it isn’t legal, or other instances in clear violation of the law.

But this memo isn’t legally binding. Essentially, federal authorities have offered a handshake agreement that they won’t bother marijuana businesses in compliance with state laws. But under a new president or a new attorney general, that could change. Removing marijuana from the schedule of controlled substances would eliminate this grey area entirely.

2. Marijuana businesses could use the bank.

Since pot is illegal at the federal level, most banks — even ones in states where marijuana is legal — are wary about doing business with marijuana customers. Colorado set up a credit union for marijuana businesses last year in order to address this concern, but the Federal Reserve recently blocked the move by saying it wouldn’t accept any money from marijuana businesses. This would prevent the credit union from accessing the electronic networks that would allow it to do commerce with other parts of the national banking system.

This move appears to contradict guidance given out by the Treasury Department last year that tried to “enhance the availability of financial services for, and the financial transparency of, marijuana-related businesses.” Instances like this, where different parts of the federal government issue contradictory rulings on the same issue, are one of the reasons why running a marijuana businesses can be so costly — and so risky — even in places where state law allows it.

Currently, most marijuana businesses are cash-only.

3. They could apply for tax breaks too.

An obscure provision in the federal tax code prevents businesses “trafficking” in controlled substances from taking advantage of tax breaks and exemptions available to other businesses. In legal marijuana states, it essentially puts the marijuana industry in a Catch-22: marijuana businesses have to file federal tax returns, but they can’t deduct the types of expenses that businesses usually deduct. In some cases, marijuana businesses are paying effective tax rates of 80 or 90 percent.

4. Research into medical uses of marijuana could proceed unimpeded

Currently, marijuana researchers face a tangle of red tape when it comes to conducting studies on the medical uses of the plant. This has prompted everyone from the Brookings Institution to the American Medical Associationto call on the government to make it easier to work with the drug. But the Drug Enforcement Administration has rejected numerous attempts to relax marijuana rules over the decades, sometimes overriding the recommendations of federal judges.

If marijuana were removed from the schedule, much of this red tape would be eliminated.

5. The DEA would end its “marijuana eradication program”

For decades, the Drug Enforcement Administration has been pursuing a marijuana eradication program “to halt the spread of cannabis cultivation in the United States.” The program is costly — it costs $60 to pull up a single pot plant in Oregon, where marijuana is legal — and it’s pulling up less weed as more growers shift to indoor grow methods.

It has also proven to be incredibly ineffective. In 1977, two years before the program started, 24 percent of Americans said they had ever tried marijuana, according to Gallup. By 2015, that number was up to 44 percent.

6. Marijuana would regain the status it was always supposed to have

Marijuana was originally placed on Schedule 1 as a temporary measure in 1970 while a government-convened panel of experts figured out how to handle it from a legal standpoint. Two years later, the panel recommended complete decriminalization of small amounts of the drug: “the Commission recommends … [that the] possession of marijuana for personal use no longer be an offense, [and that the] casual distribution of small amounts of marijuana for no remuneration, or insignificant remuneration, no longer be an offense.”

But President Richard Nixon ignored his own commission’s findings and kept marijuana on Schedule 1, saying “we need, and I use the word ‘all out war,’ on all fronts” when it came to weed.

7. Most voters — who say states should chart their own course on weed — would get what they want

Even Republican voters, who are generally more skeptical of marijuana legalization, say that states should be able to carry out their own marijuana laws without federal interference. The National Conference of State Legislatures has said the same thing. Removing marijuana from the schedule of controlled substances would simply add a federal imprimatur to a way of thinking held by a majority of Americans.

Christopher Ingraham writes about politics, drug policy and all things data. He previously worked at the Brookings Institution and the Pew Research Center.

Article source Washington Post

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Pot Legalization Highly Possible for Vermont This Year

The state would be the first to legalize the drug legislatively.

By Steven Nelson 

Get ready for talk about Green Mountains of marijuana and cash: The home state of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders appears well-positioned to become the nation’s first to legalize marijuana through legislation.

Hurdles remain, but a bill introduced this week by a longtime state senator has won out-of-the-gate support from Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin and the enthusiastic backing of the state Senate’s Republican minority leader.

The Vermont legislation is more restrictive than voter-passed measures in Colorado, Oregon and Alaska, and more similar to Washington state’s law in not allowing residents to grow plants at home.

The bill would allow adults 21 and older to purchase and possess 1 ounce of marijuana. Non-Vermonters would be limited to quarter-ounce purchases from licensed retailers, and a commission would consider whether edible products and concentrates should be allowed.

[RELATED: Dismiss States’ Anti-Legalization Lawsuit, Feds Tell Supreme Court]

A tax rate is not currently proposed in the bill, which is up for a vote Friday in the Vermont Senate Judiciary Committee, where passage appears certain. The chamber’s Finance Committee is expected to address taxation before sending the measure to the full state Senate.

Matt Simon, the Marijuana Policy Project’s New England political director, lives near the legislature in small-town Montpelier and says the bill’s chances appear to be improving as lawmakers listen to committee testimony from experts who’ve handled legalization in other states.

“The House is going to be a tougher sell,” Simon says, though he’s optimistic undecided members of certain committees will be won over, particularly after an anticipated triumph in the state Senate.

The sense of inevitability, Simon says, has prompted some declared skeptics to participate in the process to help mold the outcome. He says the full Senate likely will pass the bill in February or March.

[ALSO: DEA Raid on Tribe’s ‘Industrial Hemp’ Crop Infuriates and Confuses]

The legislation was written intentionally as a cautious step into legalization, in line with guidelines set by Shumlin in a speech to lawmakers earlier this month. Simon recalls that the bill’s sponsor, Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Sears, a Democrat, once said he’d never allow legalization but evolved into a strong reform supporter during earlier debates about decriminalizing small-time marijuana possession.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning, vice chairman of the Judiciary Committee, says he fully supports the bill and that it balances the interests of both sides of the debate.

“To proponents, it doesn’t go far enough, but there are provisions in the bill that will keep the conversation moving forward to discuss their concerns,” Benning says. “To opponents, the bill goes too far, but if you read the language of this 50-plus page bill you will see that virtually all concerns have been taken into account in a way that enables us to get hold of larger concerns.”

Benning says many fellow Republicans likely oppose the concept of legalization, but that he “remain[s] optimistic that the final version will demonstrate that most of their initial concerns are taken into account. That may possibly change some minds.” Legalization votes often blur party lines, but Republicans, who are greatly outnumbered in Vermont, generally are more resistant.

Shumlin’s predecessor, Republican former Gov. Jim Douglas, says he’s not convinced legalization will be an easy sell, even with political stars currently appearing to align.

Douglas, speaking by phone from the Statehouse, where he was attending hearings with Middlebury College students, says the bill theoretically could die as a result of being sent to so many committees.

“There is a lot of support for it,” he says, “but I can’t predict at this point if they will pass it or not.”

Douglas says he’s “not a fan” of legalization and that some opposition already is forming. Doctors held a press conference Thursday urging restraint, and he says he expects law enforcement leaders to weigh in against the bill, arguing it’s difficult to prove a driver is intoxicated on marijuana.

“Even though a poll shows more Vermonters support the proposal than not, there are going to be a lot of steps along the way before it happens,” Douglas says. “And a lot of people ask, ‘What’s the rush?'”

Relatively progressive Vermont’s lurch toward legalization comes two years after the lower legislative chamber in libertarian-leaning New Hampshire passed a legalization bill, only to reconsider it in a second vote in the face of opposition from Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan and state senators.

Legalization bills have crept forward in other state legislatures – with a Bible-quoting Republican’s bill passing a Texas committee last year – but the only successful path for legalization thus far has been the ballot box in places that allow initiatives.

[MORE: Key Anti-Pot Argument Torched? Teen Use Flat as Risk Perception Plunges]

Passage of the Vermont legislation would make the state the first east of the Mississippi River to allow for a regulated recreational marijuana market (the nation’s capital allows home-growing of marijuana but is blocked by Congress from regulating sales).

If the bill does pass, Vermont may soon be joined by neighboring Maine and Massachusetts, where voters will consider ballot initiatives in November. Arizona, California and Nevada voters also are likely to consider legalization initiatives.

Legislation in other states may have at least somewhat of a chance this year. Bills in Rhode Island and Hawaii likely stand the best shot, though in most places majority support among the public is not enough. In New Mexico, where a recent poll found 61 percent support, a just-introduced measure’s sponsor, state Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, freely admits “the chances are slim to none” it will pass.

Simon says the approach taken by Vermont political leaders could be an example for other states. He says thorough legislative hearings, a series of public engagement events and cautious drafting gave the effort a boost by making people comfortable with the idea.

[READ: Family of Pot Patients Sentenced to Federal Prison ]

“They’ve gotten past the giggle phase that a lot of state legislatures are stuck in,” he says. “I think it’s certainly better than 50-50 [it will pass this year]. We’ve seen the momentum increase each week, and it looks like we’ll have a strong vote coming out of the Senate.”

Ahead of the bill’s unveiling, the Marijuana Policy Project this week released a TV ad with Vermont’s former Attorney General Kimberly Cheney, a Republican, likening current marijuana policy to alcohol prohibition and urging residents to contact their lawmakers.

Possession of marijuana for any reason outside limited research remains a federal crime, but the Obama administration has allowed state and tribal governments broad leeway to chart their own courses – a policy favored by 2016 presidential front-runners Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Other top contenders in the GOP and Democratic primary contests, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sanders, also support state autonomy, with Sanders also supporting federal legalization.

Douglas says he can see the potential appeal of tourism dollars along with taxes and licensing fees, but that “there’s something about Vermont values that will come to play,” and he’s not sure those values will live up to their liberal reputation.

Article source US News

Why Isn’t Anyone Co-sponsoring Bernie Sanders’ Legalization Bill?

January 29, 2016
By James McClure

No one has sponsored Bernie Sanders’ Senate Bill, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2015. That’s some sobering news for legalization advocates, brought to us by Don Fitch of Marijuana Politics. If passed, the bill would effectively end the federal prohibition of cannabis and allow states to legalize, regulate and tax it like alcohol and tobacco. “If passed” is the key phrase here

But so far Bernie has no backers. And according to the website GovTrak, the bill stands a 1% chance of being enacted.

Yet according to a YouGov poll from December 2015, 52 percent of Americans favor legalization. And there are vocal cannabis reformers in the Senate, including Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul and other supporters of the CARERS Act, which would liberalize medical marijuana laws nationwide.

So why is Bernie’s bill languishing?

John Hudak of the Brookings Institution said in a Washington Times commentary that the bill is really a boon for the status quo. Here’s why:

“Despite appearing radical on its face, S. 2237 actually supports the status quo. How can this be? Answering this question requires a hefty dose of reality. S. 2237 will not pass the Senate. It will not pass the House. It will not receive a committee hearing. It will die where it currently lives — in a stagnant pool of legislation with no hope whatsoever of advancing in the legislative process.”

In a followup conversation with Civilized, Hudak argued that Bernie’s bill could actually be a setback to the legalization movement: “Positions like this and legislation like this can undermine the efforts of activists who have worked hard to get politicians on side with proposed reforms,” he said.

The problem with trying to impose too many reforms too quickly, Hudak explained, is that it can alienate moderate supporters of cannabis reform:

“My position is that ideas like that are risky for two reasons: One, they can reinforce the criticism of social policy reform as a slippery slope. Opponents can make the argument that they can’t make piecemeal reform because Sanders’ bill [which appears too extreme to many in Congress] is where reform will lead them. Two, it can make other members of congress throw their hands up and distance themselves from marijuana reform because it looks too risky for them.”

So is the problem that Sanders is too much of an idealist? Possibly, but Hudak suspects that Sanders’ position on cannabis reform may be disingenuous.

“I don’t question his passion or commitment to health care reform,” Hudak said in reference to Sanders’ dogged fight for single-payer healthcare reform. “You cannot add that historical commitment to marijuana. The record doesn’t suggest it. It suggests that this is political – that Sanders is reaching out to fire up a community that he considers his base.”

He added, “If Bernie Sanders is truly committed to the idea of reform, you think that he would co-sponsor the other legislation,” including the CARERS Act as well as the Small Business Tax Equity Act.

In fairness to Sanders, he did sign onto the Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act last October. But he will likely need to do more to prove to his sincerity about cannabis reform to colleagues and critics. Sanders was tepid toward the issue as recently as last June, when he expressed some misgivings about legalization. So for longtime activists and advocates, Sanders’ sudden conversion to legalization might – like his bill – seem too radical and too sudden to endorse.

Article source Civilized Life

Bernie Sanders cannabis policy