Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-VT) campaign is encouraging the candidate to promptly legalize marijuana without waiting for Congress if he is elected to the White House.
Directing the Justice Department to reclassify cannabis under federal law is among dozens of executive actions that are under consideration for Sanders’s “first days as president,” The Washington Post reported on Thursday.
“As we continue discussing the early work of your presidency and the progress we can make, below for review is a brief overview of executive actions you could take early in your administration,” an internal campaign document obtained by The Post says. “We cannot accept delays from Congress on some of the most pressing issues, especially those like immigration where Trump has governed with racism and for his own corrupt benefit.”
Other proposals being weighed by the Sanders team reportedly include allowing the U.S. to import prescription drugs from Canada and declaring climate change a national disaster. The list was drafted by three top campaign aides—campaign manager Faiz Shakir, senior adviser Warren Gunnels and campaign policy director Josh Orton—though it has not yet been formally signed off on by Sanders, according to The Post.
While many of the proposed executive orders haven’t been previously reported, however, Sanders has already publicly committed to unilaterally ending marijuana prohibition as part of his drug policy reform agenda.
Last year, a cannabis policy plan released by the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate said he would instruct his attorney general, Drug Enforcement Administration administrator and Health and Human Services secretary to collaborate to end the drug war. After the attorney general is confirmed, Sanders pledged to use executive action to federally deschedule cannabis within 100 days.
In an interview, the senator laid out a three-part plan for marijuana under his administration. Following the executive action, he said he would get to work expediting expungements for those with prior cannabis convictions, revitalize the clemency process and then reinvest tax revenue from marijuana sales into communities most harmed by the drug war.
He also wants to prevent tobacco companies from participating in the industry and encourage small businesses to enter the market.
Sanders, who became the first major presidential candidate to endorse legalization during his 2016 campaign and filed the Senate’s first-ever cannabis descheduling bill in 2015, has talked frequently on the campaign trail about the need to fundamentally change the country’s approach to marijuana.
Members of his team have evidently taken a page from the senator, with Nevada staff joining a congressman who endorsed Sanders for a tour of a Las Vegas cannabis dispensary last week.
The senator has also taken unique positions on the issue, such as voicing support for a unionization effort earlier this month at one of the largest cannabis companies in Illinois. Workers ultimately did vote in favor on joining the union.
But while Sanders has been at the forefront of the marijuana reform movement, he’s notably declined to back broader drug policy proposals such as decriminalizing possession of all drugs that other candidates are embracing. He said on a couple occasions last year that he’s “not there yet” on the issue.
Meanwhile, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg supports drug possession decriminalization, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) favors legalizing and regulating currently illegal drugs.
Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer, also presidential candidates, have advocated for decriminalizing opioids to combat the overdose crisis. Yang also supports legalizing psilocybin mushrooms for military veterans to use therapeutically.
Photo courtesy of Phil Roeder.