Vermont made history in 2018 by becoming the first state to legalize recreational cannabis through the Legislature. Lawmakers forgot one thing, though — to create a regulated and legal marijuana market in the process.
The state prohibited cannabis sales for the past two years, even though residents could possess and consume the substance without penalty. That changed last week when Vermont Gov. Phil Scott allowed a bill that would legalize recreational cannabis sales without his signature. He also signing separate legislation that would expunge prior marijuana-related records statewide.
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Congratulating his home state was none other than Sen. Bernie Sanders, who was happy Vermont will soon have safe and legal access to cannabis products.
“Let me congratulate the state legislature for making Vermont the 11th state in the country to legalize marijuana and also for expunging past marijuana convictions,” Sanders tweeted.
“Now, it is time for Congress and the federal government to end the war on drugs and legalize marijuana nationwide,” he added.
Let me congratulate the state legislature for making Vermont the 11th state in the country to legalize marijuana and also for expunging past marijuana convictions. Now, it is time for Congress and the federal government to end the war on drugs and legalize marijuana nationwide.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) October 9, 2020
Sanders ardently supported federal cannabis reform throughout his 2020 presidential run, stating in interviews that our current marijuana laws are “insane” and “too many lives are being destroyed.” He said that if elected president, he would have legalized cannabis nationwide his first day in office.
Since Joe Biden became the Democratic presidential nominee, Sanders has remained an important voice around cannabis issues and policies. When civil unrest broke out this summer following the killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and other Black Americans, it started a dialogue in this country around police reform. Sanders argued that legalizing cannabis should be part of the conversation.
“State after state have moved to legalize marijuana, and it is time for the federal government to do the same,” he said. “When we talk about police department reform, we must end police officers continuing to arrest, search or jail the people of our country, predominantly people of color, for using marijuana.”
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Sanders created a “unity” task force with Biden to decide important policy stances around criminal justice reform, which led to some heated discussions around cannabis. The task force ultimately did not recommend ending marijuana prohibition, in part because Biden supports decriminalization but not legalization.
During the vice presidential debates last week, VP nominee Kamala Harris declared a Biden-Harris administration would prioritize decriminalizing cannabis if elected. It represented the biggest promise made by a national party’s presidential nominee around marijuana reform to date.
Harris said, “We will decriminalize marijuana and we will expunge the records of those who have been convicted of marijuana.”