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Bernie Sanders Touts Marijuana Legalization Plan In South Carolina Ad Ahead Of Primary

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Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is touting his support for marijuana legalization to attract South Carolina voters ahead of the state’s primary on Saturday.

In a new television ad, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate outlined his criminal justice reform plan—emphasizing that he will legalize cannabis and expunge prior marijuana convictions, among other actions.

“Our criminal justice system lets the crooks on Wall Street who destroyed our economy walk free, while one in three black men go to prison. Bernie Sanders is fighting for justice and always has. He’ll fix our broken justice system so that it works for everyone, not just the wealthy,” the ad, narrated by actor Danny Glover, Sander’s campaign surrogate, states. “He’ll end police misconduct and cash bail, legalize marijuana and expunge past convictions and invest in jobs and eduction instead of jails and incarceration.”

The legalization policy proposal puts Sanders in stark contrast with the other candidate leading polls in the state. Former Vice President Joe Biden is one of just two contenders in the race who opposes legalization, the other being former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Both Biden and Bloomberg back more modest reforms such as decriminalizing cannabis possession.

South Carolina Democratic primary voters overwhelming approved a non-binding advisory ballot measure supporting the legalization of medical cannabis in 2018. But while House and Senate committees have voted in favor of legislation to accomplish that goal, none have yet received full floor votes. Lawmakers in a House panel took up the issue again in a hearing last week.

A poll conducted last year shows that a strong majority of South Carolina residents (72 percent) support medical marijuana legalization, including 84 percent of Democrats.

Sanders has consistently promoted his plan for comprehensive cannabis reform on the campaign trail. And so far, he’s won the popular vote in the first three primary states: Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

In his victory speech after the Nevada caucus on Saturday, Sanders delivered criminal justice reform messages similar to those in his new campaign ad.

“We are in fact are going to reform a broken and racist criminal justice system. We do not want to continue a situation where we have more people in jail than any other country including China, four times our size. And the people in jail are disproportionately African American, Latino and Native American,” he said. “And that is why we are going to invest in our young people in jobs and education, not more jails and incarceration. That is why we are going to end private prisons and detention centers. That is why we are going to end the war on drugs and legalize marijuana in every state in this country.”

He then asked people in the audience to indicated whether the know someone who has been arrested for cannabis possession before saying, “We are going to move forward to expunge the record for those who have been arrested for possession of marijuana.”

While the senator was the first major presidential candidate to call for legalization during his 2016 bid, he recently revised the strategy and said he would legalize in all 50 states on his first day in office through executive action. Legal experts told Marijuana Moment such a plan may not be legally and practically unfeasible, however.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), another 2020 candidate, also backs legalization and released a plan over the weekend where she pledged to begin the process of ending federal marijuana prohibition within 100 days of taking office. That’s in line with an earlier version of Sanders’s reform plan.

Elizabeth Warren Has A New Plan For Legalizing Marijuana

Photo courtesy of Lorie Shaull.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based senior editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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