Bernie Sanders Is Right on Marijuana, But Not Enough

Time to treat pot like alcohol.


While it's hard to pinpoint accurately, estimates place the current number of Americans in Alcoholics Anonymous at more than 1.2 million. AA members meet often; today alone there will be more than 50 AA meetings within a 50-mile radius of downtown Richmond. Attend just about any of them and you likely will hear personal testimonies about the shocking degree of human misery alcohol can inflict.

If you prefer data to anecdotes, consider this: The Centers for Disease Control reports that from 2006 to 2010, "excessive alcohol use led to approximately 88,000 deaths . . . shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 30 years. Further, excessive drinking was responsible for 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults aged 20-64 years. The economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in 2010 were estimated at $249 billion."

Yet there are 10 state liquor stores within just a four-mile radius of downtown Richmond, and hundreds across the state. Virginia's Department of Alcoholic Beverage control actually boasts about how much liquor it sells: "The agency is a leading revenue producer for Virginia and the source of future economic growth and innovation for the state," it crows. "Virginia ABC has contributed $8.6 billion to the Commonwealth's general fund."

And that's just liquor stores. There are who-knows-how-many grocery and convenience stores where you can buy beer and wine. More than half the adults in Virginia and across the country have enjoyed at least a drink or two in the past month—and nearly half of those consumed five or more drinks in a sitting—mostly without consequence.

Once upon a time, almost a century ago, the United States decided the social costs of drinking were too high, and imposed Prohibition. It didn't work out well. Though alcohol consumption dipped briefly after Volstead it soon recovered, thanks to Prohibition's creation of a vast underground trade, largely run by organized crime, that flourished despite steep increases in government spending on alcohol control. Bootleggers concentrated more on hard liquor because it was easier to conceal and transport, and the lack of production standards quadrupled the number of deaths from poisoned products.

Eventually the public wised up. Americans realized that while alcohol causes many problems, banning alcohol does not solve those problems but does create other ones. Almost nobody today would insist the government should forbid Smith to take a drink because Jones has a drinking problem.

Now the public is wising up about the folly of marijuana prohibition. In 1990 Americans favored prohibition 81 to 16 percent; today Americans favor legalization 52 to 45 percent. Politicians, however, are still playing catch-up.

Last week at George Mason University Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a Democratic presidential candidate, recommended a sensible if modest step: removing pot from the list of Schedule I substances, where it now sits alongside heroin and LSD because of the federal government's official but false contention that it has no redeeming uses and can inflict severe physical dependence. Sanders said pot policy should be left to the states.

This is a move in the right direction, albeit a small and timid one. A proper policy would treat marijuana like alcohol (which, unlike pot, can be physically addicting). But at least Sanders has the right idea. Hillary Clinton supports medical marijuana but straddles the fence about recreational pot. The Republican presidential candidates, meanwhile, are mostly stuck in the past.

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson wants to "intensify" the war on drugs; Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) has frequently fulminated against recreational marijuana. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) flatly opposes pot legalization, and Republican Carly Fiorina opposes it "for a whole host of reasons," though she says states should be able to legalize the stuff if they want. That is essentially the same view as that of Republican presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz (Tx.), Jeb Bush (Fla.) and Mike Huckabee (Ark.). Gov. John Kasich (OH) opposes even medical marijuana. Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) says marijuana should remain illegal even if it is only "half as bad as alcohol" (!). Even Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) has been noncommittal about legalization, although he thinks the feds should butt out and penalties should be lower. Gov. Bobby Jindal (La.) might be open to persuasion. (Rick Santorum, George Pataki and Jim Gilmore all oppose legalization and Donald Trump is, as usual, incoherent.)

This is exceedingly odd from a party that claims to venerate individual freedom; abhors big government; mocks liberal paternalists who think government should protect people from themselves; celebrates the free market for meeting consumer demand; and praises (pardon the term) budding entrepreneurs such as those in the marijuana industry. There is not a single conservative argument for pot prohibition consistent with those values, and if liberals ever argued for outlawing tobacco or alcohol for the same reasons that conservatives support marijuana prohibition, conservatives would vilify them as stormtroopers of the nanny state. And they would be right.

Perhaps one of these days conservatives will wake up and realize what they sound like. Fingers crossed, eh?

This article originally appeared at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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  1. Here is all one needs to know about bernie and his “positions”.

    Just a couple months ago, Bernie Sanders lambasted Uber as an “unregulated” company with “serious problems,” but financial disclosures by the Democratic presidential candidate reveal that whenever his campaign requires a taxi, they literally always turn to Uber.

    According to research done by National Journal, 100 percent of Sanders’ spending on taxi and ride-sharing services was spent on Uber. Among 2016 presidential contenders, that’s a distinction Sanders shares with only Bobby Jindal, Martin O’Malley, and the defunct Scott Walker and Rick Perry

    Read more:…..z3qXQfAdLi

    1. I’ve enjoyed the pleasurable benefits of marijuana for over 15 years now. It’s a wonderful recreational drug when used in moderation. I’ve personally never understood the fight to keep drugs away from me at all cost.

      As of now, marijuana money is going into the wrong hands. Marijuana is stronger and easier to get than ever before, albeit much more expensive than it should be? and all that money is going back to the cartels!

      To smoke casually from the “black market”, it will run you $100/month. This is much more expensive than it needs to be. More expensive than my cell phone ($20/month from Tmobile), car insurance ($25/month from Insurance Panda), netflix ($10/month), and gym ($15/month) COMBINED!!! Would you rather put money into the hands of violent gangs and drug dealers? or into taxes for schools, hospitals, public infrastructure, etc.???

      I work very hard for a living and should be allowed to do whatever I want to my own body in the privacy of my own home. Arresting me for using marijuana in my own home would be like arresting me for playing “box the clown” in my own home. They both make me feel good and I’m not hurting anyone else doing it. Seriously, what’s the harm and why should I go to jail for it?

      1. I would rather out my money into the hands of the black market over greedy, slaving, Marxist, corrupt government ANY day. And your characterization of where marijuana comes from is cliched bullshit. In the northwest, most pot comes from local growers who are regular folks struggling to make ends meet because of this wonderful government you are so desperate to give your money.

        Giving your money to government is like burning it. Giving it to local merchants (most of the black market) puts it back into the economy where it actually does some good.

        1. marijuana’s a weed. it should be cheaper than anything we actually have to cultivate (bad weed at least). the most irritating iteration of how we treat weed is states where it’s legal medicinally, but you can’t grow it. Theoretically for “quality control” or being able to measure dosages or something, but obviously the real reason is the state cant tax it. I just saw my sister who lives in colorado, and she attests to the black market fucking thriving there to get around taxes (she also lives in a “dry” town, so that probably has some effect, but that’s not the only place she ever is)

  2. I’m shocked that candidates from both parties are not jumping at the chance to leaglize and then regulate/tax marijuana to death. It’s a great chance to create a giant bureaucracy with a whole new batch of cronies lining up. How can they miss the opportunity to add the “M” into ATF? New windbreakers all around.

    1. Weell see that the problem, that new windbreaker thingy.

      Discussions are still being held over who’s initial goes where on the new windbreakers because those kinds of things affect funding and budgets and offices and who gets to sit closest to the big boss don’t cha know ?




      You’re just getting a little ahead of yourself there.

      1. Its actually the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms Explosives and Marijuana…..dunna, dunna, dunna, dunna…


        1. FATBEM




    2. Yup. That’s what kept me from voting for Colorado’s A64, and I was right to be concerned.

      Fortunately, it also had a grow-your-own provision. There are no regulations on that besides plant counts and secure, hidden growing (meaning a greenhouse would have to be opaque and “secure.”) You can also keep ALL you grow, and distribute (without charging, because commerce is EVIL.) If I had the time and money, I’d build a dugout greenhouse following the Earthship model, which would allow growing under natural light and heat conditions. Frankly, if you grow for yourself, a couple outdoor plants a year should do it, but you need the extra 6-8 weeks shelter.

      1. So if your car gets stolen from your driveway no big deal, but if your pot gets stolen from your greenhouse you have committed a crime ?

      2. isn’t the whole point of a greenhouse to be not opaque?

  3. Yes, marijuana, the great libertarian priority of 2016. Who cares if we’re already 3/4 of the way towards socialism, with an openly socialist party promising to take us the rest of the distance. Lets definitely keep talking about marijuana, and even make common cause with the socialists if it means getting legal pot. That’s what you call rational political strategy.

    Maybe every other story on Reason should be about pot, instead of every third as it is now? You know, just to drive the point home.

    1. That’s a pretty stupid attitude. If it’s an infringement on your liberties, it’s fair game. I’m sorry it’s not your issue (and before it became my medicine, it wasn’t one of mine, but I always respected their rights anyway.)

    2. The War on Drugs is by far the most destructive policy with respect to liberty in the last several decades. Do you think that things like police militarization and civil asset forfeiture are no big deal? Ending it should be a priority of anybody who cares about liberty.

      1. Do you think legalizing pot is going to do jack shit for any of that?

        This is a bullshit non issue, and it serves no other purpose but to employ libertarianism as the useful idiot of progressives.

        When libertarians wake the fuck up and start thinking strategically, maybe they’ll have some kind of policy success.

        1. Can you point to what policy success that your line of thinking has produced? I mean, we are 3/4 of the way towards socialism (which is a fucking stupid argument) per your account. Or is that a success to you?

        2. marijuana is maybe the only front the libertarian opinion is gaining any ground (well, gay marriage too i guess), and maybe to you it’s a “bullshit non-issue”, but to people who could replace opiates with marijuana or who are spending time in federal prison because of it, it’s literally a life or death issue. i vaguely recall some cliche about perfect and good enough or something (not that anything anyone is proposing is good enough, but saying we shouldnt think about this cuz there are more important things to worry about is nonsense, even if your ranking of the relative imports is objectively correct)

          1. Right, so pot is a non-issue to this “libertarian,” along with asset forfeiture, sentencing reform, and police militarization.

            So we should be focusing on what, then? Domestic spying? And how much of that is tied into the War on Drug, I wonder? (Hint — all the rest of it that isn’t tied into the War on Terror.)

            For anyone worried about our society going socialist, getting a single win that will in turn pull the rug out from about half a dozen other government-bullying/overstepping problems would seem to me to be a pretty huge win.

            If you really don’t want to live under a socialist regime why not start by weakening the grip of government over everything in our lives.

    3. So, genius, what’s your plan?

    4. Jim Norton wants pot legalized. Just sayin’.

    5. Heh. At least dipshit didn’t say “Can’t believe you guys call this place Reason” or some other variation of that.

    6. As a WA State resident, I can honestly say that a black market and mild prohibition is better than legalization that comes with massive government regulation, taxation, and intrusion.

      1. yeah, as a medicinal user in mass, where it’s theoretically legal but they still haven’t opened dispensaries, i remember one morning i got a prescription for something else from my doctor, which she fucked up somehow, and i ended up having to spend like three hours going back and forth between her office and cvs getting it figured out, whereas i had called my “guy” that morning and he met me a couple blocks from my apt within the hour. it would be nice if insurance paid for my pot, but i don’t think any insurance anywhere does that, and i know it would be silly anyhow (it’s not an emergency thing so i can plan and budget for it without the government’s help). it would just be nice

  4. I make up to $90 an hour working from my home. My story is that I quit working at Walmart to work online and with a little effort I easily bring in around $40h to $86h? Someone was good to me by sharing this link with me, so now i am hoping i could help someone else out there by sharing this link… Try it, you won’t regret it!……


  5. One thing about Sanders not mentioned here: He wants to tax and regulate it. For some reason there never seems to be a single politician who thinks it’s enough to JUST STOP IT, ALREADY. They have to take the opportunity to use it to grow the government in OTHER places.

    1. I always mention that tax and regulate will require enforcers.

  6. Treating cannabis like alcohol will kill any chances for a hemp industry. It will be too expensive to grow hemp in the US.

    We should treat cannabis like tomatoes.

    1. WA is steadily fine tuning it’s cannabis regulations to reward crony lobbyists and crush small producers and medical co-ops. We were far better off before I-502 legalized it.

  7. And what is with the war on LSD? Properly used it is a cure for PTSD induced alcoholism. As Tim Leary proved a long time ago. You can’t overdose on it. But a tenth of a gram dose will have you trippin for 3 days.

  8. Legalize everything that is described as a “victim-less crime”, sex for money, gambling, and ingesting ANYTHING you want, IF you are an adult!

    1. Sounds good to me. I’l like to walk into a drug store and buy some LSD or MDMA.

  9. Bernie is “right” on marijuana, but “not enough”; meanwhile Ben Carson campaigns to abolish Dept of Ed and EPA, but apparently made a cheeky comment that the Dept of Ed should monitor extreme bias (as though not already the case) and is a pariah.

    Regulate like alcohol? Does that include checkpoints, fines for use, insurance, etc.?

    1. Ben also wants to intensify the WOD. But he is OK with Medical MJ.

  10. Live Free[er]?

    Dear Reason reader,

    One of the most freedom- damaging beliefs you can have is the belief in the necessity, and the effectiveness, of political involvement – to supposedly “improve” your own life and the lives of others .

    Fact: as an individual you will _never_ enjoy a freer life for yourself until you completely see through/ reject the “drug”, “religion” [ or whatever else you want to call it] known as “political activism” or “involvement”, in its entirety.
    I can help with that.

    Regards, onebornfree.
    Personal Freedom Consulting:

    1. Is fisting your asshole part of the deal? If so, count me in.

  11. I’m sorry, but “socialism with free pot” isn’t an attractive proposition. Even more so when the “socialism” is veering in the direction of “national”.

  12. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
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  13. Wow, I have never read any of those facts on pot ever before ever, especially on Reason. Personally I am disappointed daily that the news on legalization stays the same daily.

    As far as pot legalization w/ socialism, I’ll take that. We could get rid of the socialism if we had a decent party of conservatives.

  14. I was an RN for 30 years in major university research hospitals. I witnessed the federal government lying about marijuana for 30 years. my question is what if they are lying as intensely about causes and solutions to events in the middle east?

  15. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go? to tech tab for work detail,,,,,,,


  16. I make up to $90 an hour working from my home. My story is that I quit working at Walmart to work online and with a little effort I easily bring in around $40h to $86h? Someone was good to me by sharing this link with me, so now i am hoping i could help someone else out there by sharing this link… Try it, you won’t regret it!……

  17. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ??????

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