Presidential hopefuls plan for cannabis law reform

The topic of legalizing marijuana has saturated the main stage of the Democratic primaries. Almost every candidate has expressed some support for the legalization of marijuana, with the exception of Former Vice-President Joe Biden and Former Mayor Mike Bloomberg who believe that it should be left up to the states to decide. Only two candidates have outlined actual plans for the industry and the future of marijuana: Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

Both Sanders and Warren have vowed to legalize marijuana through executive action by appointing attorney generals to de-list the drug from the Controlled Substances Act. They both plan to vacate and expunge all prior criminal convictions for marijuana that meet the criteria to do so. They have also both vowed to never let the developing marijuana industry become what Big Tobacco has turned into.  

Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Sanders itemizes his plan by giving us details on each step that he will take in order to follow through with everything he is promising. He states on his campaign website: “while Congress must aggressively move to end the war on drugs”, he “will not wait for Congress to act” and instead will immediately issue an executive order directing the Attorney General to declassify marijuana as a controlled substance. He also mentions examples of legislation from states that have already legalized marijuana such as California, Vermont, Pennsylvania and Ohio, that he plans to use as reference when enacting federal legislation.

Warren’s plan is very similar but with a slightly more passive approach in comparison to Bernie’s aggressive policy approach. She states that she is for more of a gradual change in legislation by Congress. Warren vows to make the necessary administration changes in order to pass legislation in favor of legalization, however she will not actively propose any executive action unless Congress refuses to act. 

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Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren on the debate stage. (Win McNamee / Getty Images)

Warren also agrees with expunging all past marijuana convictions, but does not mention anything about what will happen with current convictions. The point that she focuses most on is ensuring that the marijuana industry does not become Big Tobacco by proposing regulations on the marijuana industry to preserve the market access and competition. 

While their plans do differ, their intentions remain the same. Both Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders promise to use their presidential power to enact change in regards to current marijuana legislation and to put an end to a war on drugs that should never have begun. 

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