Marijuana

Where Bernie Sanders Differs With Republicans on Marijuana

Repealing the national ban is a logical implication of federalism.

|

GMU

While campaigning in Nevada yesterday, Donald Trump confirmed that he thinks states should be free to legalize marijuana, although he has expressed doubts about the wisdom of that policy. "In terms of marijuana and legalization," he said, "I think that should be a state issue, state by state." That formulation is a bit clearer than what Trump said at the Conservative Political Action Conference last February: "If they vote for it, they vote for it." As I noted on Tuesday, most of the remaining Republican presidential candidates take a similar position.

On the face of it, saying the federal government should not interfere with legalization is not as bold as calling for the repeal of the national ban on marijuana, as Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders did this week. But a federalist approach to marijuana, which is what most of the Republican candidates have endorsed, should amount to the same thing. "The time is long overdue for us to remove the federal prohibition on marijuana," Sanders said during his appearance at George Mason University on Wednesday. "States should have the right to regulate marijuana the same way that state and local laws now govern the sale of alcohol and tobacco….It is time for the federal government to allow states to go forward as they best choose."

That is the federalist position, and Sanders correctly concludes that it requires removing marijuana from the list of congressionally prohibited substances. Mere prosecutorial forbearance, which is what the Obama administration has offered so far, is no substitute for a statutory change because it can be reversed at any moment by this adminstration or the next, exposing state-licensed marijuana businesses to the risk of raids, felony charges, prison, and property forfeiture. Furthermore, as long as marijuana remains a Schedule I drug, those businesses, which still qualify as criminal enterprises under federal law, will be unable to use the banking system or deduct business expenses on their tax returns.

If Republicans mean what they say about state autonomy, they should have no problem endorsing something like the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act. That bill, introduced by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) last April, would make the federal ban on marijuana inapplicable in states that decide to legalize the drug. That's what it means to let states make their own decisions in this area.

One way Sanders clearly has gone further than any of the other presidential candidates is by saying he favors legalizing marijuana, and not just that states should be able to do it. At the Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas on October 13, Sanders said that if he lived in Nevada he would vote for the legalization initiative that will appear on that state's ballot next year. In explaining why, he misleadingly implied that people commonly go to prison for smoking pot. On Wednesday he clarified that point:

In 2014…there were 620,000 arrests for marijuana possession. That is one arrest every minute. According to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union, there were more than 8 million marijuana arrests in the United States from 2001 to 2010. Almost nine in 10 of those arrests were for possession. Arrests for marijuana possession rose last year nationwide even as Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia became the first states to legalize personal use of marijuana….

As is the case in many other areas, there is a racial component to this situation. Although about the same proportion of blacks and whites use marijuana, a black person is almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person. Too many Americans have seen their lives destroyed because they have criminal records as a result of marijuana use. That is wrong. That has got to change….

A criminal record could mean not only time in jail…A criminal record makes it harder for a person to get a job, harder for a person to get public benefits, harder for a person to even get housing. A criminal record stays with a person for his or her entire life. It is a serious business.

Sanders is right: It is no small thing to be treated as a criminal, even if you do not end up spending much time behind bars. A pot bust can have lifelong ramifications. A policy that imposes such burdens on people who have violated no one's rights is obviously unjust. Among the Republican candidates, only Rand Paul has made that point, although he still shies away from forthrightly endorsing legalization.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

44 responses to “Where Bernie Sanders Differs With Republicans on Marijuana

  1. 10 years from now, this debate is going to be pretty damned funny to look back on.

    1. We are suppliers of high quality medicinal Marijuana and real Mary Jane both indica and sativa strains within and out of state. We are selling just the best. Email us at kkapuel@gmail.com or TEXT (913)912-3173

      ALL THE FOLLOWING CANABIS ARE AVAILABLE
      Lemon Kush
      Master Kush
      Bubba Kush
      K2 kush
      OG kush
      GDP
      Mango
      kush herbal incense,
      Mr.Nice Guy.
      Space herbal incense,
      black mamba,
      California Orange Buds,
      snow white,
      Ak-47
      Blueberry
      White Widow
      Bubbleberry
      Sour Diesel
      Blue Dream
      Jack Herer
      Super Silver Haze
      Northern Lights x Haze
      Durban Poison

      Looking forward to expand our business in your location?.TEXT (913)912-3173 TO PLACE YOUR ORDER

  2. Isn’t Bernie Sanders in the US Senate, where they can introduce bills to like…change or repeal laws and stuff?

    1. Shhhhhhhhhh. He’s marginally better, in words if not in deeds, than Donald Trump. Let’s lift him up above those filthy GOPers…even though he’d still want to confiscate 60% of everything you make.

      Fucking incredible.

      1. He’s marginally better, in words if not in deeds

        Keep in mind the market doesn’t need 100 strains of marijuana while there are people that can’t afford dirt weed.

      2. This. I don’t understand Reason. Plenty of articles about what’s wrong with the Republican party and that it’s faithful are idiots. Bernie Sanders is sorta okay on dope so let’s broom the rest of the shit under the carpet and whistle as we walk away.

        1. I understand them. They want cake.

        2. You guys should really call it REASON when referring to the monolithic conspiracy to get socialist Democrats elected while pretending to be libertarian. That way no one reading your comments will make the mistake of thinking you’re capable of comprehending even the slightest nuance.

        3. Senile Old Man will offer you a ration of ditch weed to improve spirits in the gulag.

        4. Uh, take a look at the listing of articles at Reason in the “Bernie Sanders” category. There are a few about how he is a bit better on marijuana policy than the others. And a whole bunch about how terrible his economic policy preferences are and how ridiculous his worldview.

          Some people seem to have awfully selective memories.

    2. I doubt Sanders gave any thought to repealing anything to do with the drug war before he started running for president and got asked about it.

      1. This +100

        He’s not nearly in the legalized marijuana crowd like Huckabee and Fiorina

  3. Mere prosecutorial forbearance, which is what the Obama administration has offered so far, is no substitute for a statutory change because it can be reversed at any moment by this adminstration or the next, exposing state-licensed marijuana businesses to the risk of raids, felony charges, prison, and property forfeiture.

    Looks like somebody has missed some current events where the Obama Feds are STILL selectively prosecuting people for pot crimes in states where it’s been legalized.

    Now, we’ve got a cheerleading article for the outright socialist on the heels of the Grayson piece from yesterday ( followed closely by the “GOP Out Of Touch” article that only talked about Huckabee, Trump and Carson). Wonder what’s in store tomorrow? Something about how FDR loved dogs but Coolidge once kicked a puppy? Or how Stalin was better on cronyism than Ted Cruz is?

    1. This is all part of Reason’s schtick about how we hate Republicans and Democrats equally. So in order to balance everything out we need a bunch of articles bashing Republicans to make up for the ones bashing Democrats weeks ago.

      The problem is Republicans and Democrats are not equal, as much as the GOP sucks they’re still vastly better then anything from the Democrat side. Is there a single issue where the Dems don’t think government can do it better then the private citizens? They’re become pretty much the antithesis of everything we stand for.

      1. Tell that to the editorial staff. They didn’t get the memo.

        More murderdrones under Obama. About to be directly involved in more direct military interventions than Bush had us in, also under Obama. Expanded fed power and had more prosecutions under NDAA and Espionage act under Obama than all other presidents combined. Selective targeting by Obama IRS of political opponents including collusion with campaign to release opposition tax records.

        But one of them is marginally better on pot (even though he is in the Senate and hasn’t introduced a bill there), so let’s run with that!

        1. Bernie is merely an infidel while Republicans are heretics and apostates, so they get more scorn.

          1. That actually makes a lot of sense.

            I tend to criticize the United States more for it’s abuses on liberty because I hold it to a much higher standard then the rest of the world, it’s suppose to be the beacon of liberty. For the rest of the world I don’t expect to much from them.

            maybe it’s the same sort of thing, the hold the Dems to a lower standard cause they don’t expect much from them.

            1. Another thing to consider is that most libertarians already know the Democrats have nothing to offer them. Republicans occasionally talk a good game, so scrutinizing them is perhaps more useful to the readers.

              One of the things that I like about Reason is that not everything is advocacy. They have a point of view, of course, but the reporting isn’t trying to push any particular candidate or party. For the most part, they just report and comment from their point of view. That’s how it looks to me, anyway.

        2. Selective targeting by Obama IRS of political opponents including collusion with campaign to release opposition tax records.

          Sorry bro, you’re wrong all of the way here. The Administration’s DoJ totes said that was incompetence and not malice. Jesusfuck, appointing foxes to guard the henhouse.

        3. So, what is the precise balance of positive and negative stories about Republicans and Democrats that would make you happy? There are plenty of articles and posts about all of the things you mention that are wrong with the Obama administration. But one blog post about how Bernie Sanders is not too bad on one single issue and they are secret socialists or something?

      2. as much as the GOP sucks they’re still vastly better then anything from the Democrat side

        You mean the GOP that steals money from starving children and gives it to the rich?

        /Tony

  4. If Republicans mean what they say about state autonomy…

    They do not.

  5. “One way Sanders clearly has gone further than any of the other presidential candidates is by saying he favors legalizing marijuana, and not just that states should be able to do it.”

    If states were “able to do it”, and “it” is to make marijuana perfectly legal within their borders, marijuana must be legal from a federal standpoint. This is not the case: the Feds can crack down any time they want on any dope smoker whenever they want. The only thing restraining the Feds is the lack of state resources to work their will. The only way make marijuana truly legal in Colorado et. al. is to repeal the federal prohibition.

    I sure would not want to expand the Feds’ power to compel legalization in all 50 states. I prefer Trump’s 10th Amendment approach. Let Alabama fight its own war on marijuana. Like New Jersey’s war on guns and all sorts of ridiculous initiatives that come out of California, it would serve as an example for everybody else of what not to do.

  6. Where Bernie Sanders Differs From Republicans On Marijuana Part Two: He’d tax every employee working in the shop at 60% of their fucking income while GOPers like Rand Paul would have their marginal rate at 0% up to their first $50,000 and gradually increase it all the way up to 10%.

    Funny that didn’t make the fucking story.

    1. and Paul would have their marginal rate at 0% up to their first $50,000 and gradually increase it all the way up to 10%.

      You mean blow the deficit up?
      /standard reply for anyone advocating tax cuts

    2. Funny that didn’t make the fucking story.

      So, every story about drug policy must also address federal income taxes?

      1. seems legit

  7. Where Reason differs with commentators on AM Links

  8. hard to understand where the punch line of weed, butt sex, and Mexicans comes from, isn’t it?

    1. I love you.

  9. End the war on drugs and let the market decide.

    1. “Hey! Get a load o’ ‘Adam Smith’ over here! HaaaaaaaaHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! HIGH larious!”

  10. Talking to progressives, the view of marijuana always goes something like “let’s legalize it so we can tax it” or “legalize medical marijuana and nationalize healthcare”. It’s why I don’t believe it’s accurate to separate “social freedom” from “economic freedom”. While progs might seem to advocate some level of freedom, there’s always an underlying motivation of control and income redistribution.

    1. I spend time on weed sites and I see this over and over. I keep telling them that it will switch from a drug war to a war on unpaid taxes. They don’t seem to get it.

  11. I doubt most people are going to agree with me on this one here. But, pot is a really harmful drug. Especially for young males. Nearly every one of my heavy pot smoking male friends have ended up with bittter rage problems. Everyone of them has a serious anger problem. It usually, not always, but usually comes out when they’re not high, or just marginally high. Often they are really easygoing when they’re high, and nice to be around. But, when they’re down from it they hate a lot of things. Usually their anger is of two forms, anger and railing against impossible foes – Don Quixote anger – bankstas, or statists, or big oil, etc. Or, they get bent out of shape over little things which they dwell on for a day or two, a comment here or there that becomes a big snit in their heads and causes them to not talk to a family member for a year or so.

    There is a lot of hate out there right now. Political hatred such as I’ve never seen. Most of it is left to right. I’m wondering if this isn’t pot rage writ large.

    Plus, there is the obvious problem that really bright young males end up accomplishing about 25% of what they could have. They end up with no girlfriends, no career, living in basement suites somewhere, talking about their novel they never quite get around to writing. Or, the album they’re working on, or the app idea, and so on.

    1. So far the “studies” that “prove” your point have all been contradicted.

      If weed is bad so are endocannabinoids. Your body makes those. You have more receptors for them than any other kind.

      And of course there is mother’s milk. Loaded with endocannabinoids.

    2. The bitter rage problem is obvious. Most pot smokers are self medicating for undiagnosed PTSD.

    3. You seem to have very limited exposure to pot smokers. Or have a very atypical group that you know. In my extensive experience, serious pot smokers have similar outcomes in life to people in general. I know loser potheads, but some of the most hard working and bright people I know also smoke daily and have since they were teenagers.

  12. It just proves yet again that there are very few Federalists in the Permanent Bi-Partisan Ruling Coalition.

  13. We are suppliers of high quality medicinal Marijuana and real Mary Jane both indica and sativa strains within and out of state. We are selling just the best. Email us at kkapuel@gmail.com or TEXT (913)912-3173

    ALL THE FOLLOWING CANABIS ARE AVAILABLE
    Lemon Kush
    Master Kush
    Bubba Kush
    K2 kush
    OG kush
    GDP
    Mango
    kush herbal incense,
    Mr.Nice Guy.
    Space herbal incense,
    black mamba,
    California Orange Buds,
    snow white,
    Ak-47
    Blueberry
    White Widow
    Bubbleberry
    Sour Diesel
    Blue Dream
    Jack Herer
    Super Silver Haze
    Northern Lights x Haze
    Durban Poison

    Looking forward to expand our business in your location?.TEXT (913)912-3173 TO PLACE YOUR ORDER

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.