Vermont Press Releases

Sanders to legalize marijuana, expunge records, and invest in disproportionately impacted communities

October 24, 2019
Contact: [email protected]

WASHINGTON – Ahead of President Donald Trump’s Friday appearance at the Second Step Presidential Justice Forum in Columbia, S.C., Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday introduced his plan to legalize marijuana, expunge criminal records, invest money in communities hit hardest by the war on drugs, implement clemency reform, and prevent legalized marijuana from becoming the next Big Tobacco. 

“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.”  As president, Sanders will immediately use executive action to direct his administration to declassify marijuana as a controlled substance, and will subsequently introduce legislation to ensure marijuana legalization is permanent. Sixty-four percent of Americans support marijuana legalization, including 51 percent of Republicans.  

Under Sanders’ plan, formerly incarcerated individuals and people in areas disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs will be first in line to benefit from legalization. Marijuana criminalization disproportionately affects Black Americans, who are nearly four times more likely to be arrested or possession, despite all races using marijuana at similar rates. Sanders will create a  $10 billion USDA grant program to start urban and rural farms and growing operations, ensuring that the people victimized by criminalization see the direct benefits. 

Following the California model, the Sanders administration will direct both federal and state authorities to review marijuana convictions and vacate and expunge all past marijuana-related convictions. Those with marijuana convictions can contact their state independently to ensure their cases are reviewed, and an administrative remedy will be available if a state fails to take action within two years.

Sanders will revitalize the executive clemency process, which experts have described as arbitrary and difficult to navigate, by creating an independent White House clemency board. 

Sanders’ proposal will also ensure that the legal marijuana industry does not turn into the big tobacco industry and he will tame the reckless greed of giant corporations. Bernie will prohibit products and labels and products that target young people, ban tobacco companies from participating in the legal marijuana industry, and will partner with USDA to establish safety inspection and quality control processes for growers and producers.
 Sanders’ plan will also:

  • 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.

See the full plan HERE


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