Prepare to Feel The Bern: Sanders Promises to Legalize Cannabis Through Executive Order

Written by Rita Thompson


Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-VT, has always advocated for cannabis—this time, placing legality at the forefront of his campaign.

At a Texas rally on Friday, Feb. 14, Sanders promised to federally legalize cannabis within his first 100 days in office. He also unveiled a plan to expunge criminal records of those previously convicted for possession of the plant. 

“By executive order, I can and will legalize marijuana in every state in this country,” Sanders exclaimed to a crowd of cheering supporters. “We will expunge the records of those arrested for possession of marijuana.” 

The Disproportionate Effects of Illegality

While cannabis is used equally across ethnic groups in the U.S., African Americans remain 3.73 times more likely to be arrested and incarcerated for possessing cannabis. 

Vowing to end the “horrifically destructive war on drugs,” Sanders touched on issues related to prison and incarceration as well. “[Cannabis] has disproportionately targeted people of color and ruined the lives of millions in America,” he said. 

What Sanders Plans to do About it

In addition to expunging and vacating all past cannabis convictions, Sanders’ legalization plan will also: 

  • Legalize cannabis within the first 100 days in office via executive action 
  • Reinvest revenue from legal cannabis sales to communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs 
  • Make sure legal cannabis does not turn into big tobacco

“It is time to admit the criminalization of marijuana was a disaster, especially for those communities of color, and allow those most impacted to move forward with their lives,” Sanders explains the statement on

Additionally, the Senator also vowed to replace the current U.S. healthcare system, which he’s previously described as “cruel and dysfunctional,” with his plan of “Medicare for all.” 

What Else to Expect

But, there are other potential changes in drug regulation. Amongst those include Tom Steyers’ plans to decriminalize opioids, and Pete Buttigieg’s plan to decriminalize possession of all drugs. However, with recent polls showing Sanders overtaking the democratic race, cannabis could soon be reaching it’s time to shine. 


Emerald contributor since June 2019


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