Bernie Sanders introduces bill to end federal pot ban

Will the U.S. Senate legalize marijuana?

Progressive lawmakers cite failure of prohibition in moves to revise federal drug laws

Staff Report

Amid growing awareness that marijuana prohibition has failed as a national policy, Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, a bill to lift the federal ban on marijuana.

The bill is companion legislation to H.R. 1013, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, a bipartisan bill that Polis introduced in February along with Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and nine other original cosponsors. Polis has led the same measure in each of the last two sessions of Congress.

“Just as alcohol prohibition failed in the 1920s, it’s clear marijuana prohibition is failing today,” Polis said. “For decades, the federal ban on marijuana has wasted tax dollars, impeded our criminal justice system, lined the pockets of drug cartels, and trampled on states’ ability to set their own public health laws.

“It makes no sense for marijuana to be grouped together with drugs like heroin and LSD, and we must continue working to end this misguided policy. Today’s introduction of the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act in the Senate is a huge step forward in the movement to enact the commonsense drug laws needed to grow our economy and restore fairness to our justice system.

“States like Colorado that have successfully legalized recreational and medical marijuana have proven that thoughtfully regulating marijuana works much better than banning it. The federal government needs to get out of the way.”

The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act would remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act and enable every state to decide whether to regulate or prohibit the sale and use of marijuana within its own borders.

Polis and Blumenauer first introduced this bill in the 113th Congress as H.R. 499 on February 5, 2013. In the 114th Congress, Polis and Blumenauer reintroduced the bill as H.R. 1013 on February 20, 2015, and renamed the bill the “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act.”

Though Sanders’ bill is companion legislation to H.R. 1013, there are noteworthy differences. In particular, H.R. 1013 includes provisions to insert marijuana into the section of the U.S. Code that regulates “intoxicating liquors” and establish a permitting system for commercial producers overseen by the Treasury Department, which are not present in the Senate version of the bill.

Earlier this year, the House renewed a measure authored by Rohrabacher and Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) and cosponsored by Polis to prohibit the federal government from interfering in the cultivation, sale, or use of medical marijuana. It also passed an amendment sponsored by Polis and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) to shift $9 million from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA’s) failed Cannabis Reduction and Eradication program to anti-domestic violence and anti-child abuse programs.

And the House passed a Polis-authored amendment to prohibit the DEA from restarting its warrantless bulk data collection program. Finally, the House held a historic vote on an amendment sponsored by Polis and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) to prohibit the federal government from interfering in state laws pertaining to either medical or recreational marijuana.


One thought on “Bernie Sanders introduces bill to end federal pot ban

  1. Nearly 50% of the U.S. has tried cannabis….the absurdity in trying to criminalize half of the nation.

    While the potential harms of using cannabis are widely publicized (and often exaggerated), little is mentioned of the harms of its prohibition. When making cannabis policy decisions, it would be irresponsible to ignore these harms…and costs.

    For this prohibition to be justified it needs to be established that:

    1) Cannabis is particularly harmful (at least more than alcohol)
    2) The prohibition will significantly reduce problematic usage


    3) The direct and indirect costs of prohibition to an American society need to be less than any gains from 1 and 2 (don’t underestimate the value we place on freedom and liberty)

    None of these 3 requirements have ever been established. After decades of research, the relative safety and medical efficacy of cannabis have been established well enough to conclude that it is significantly less harmful and more useful than alcohol. The vast majority of preventable harms related to cannabis are caused by the very laws that are supposed to “protect us” from it. Some of these harms are:

    •Increased deaths of countless people involved on all sides of the “war”, including those of law enforcement and bystanders
    •The spending of 100’s of billions of our dollars seeking out, arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating otherwise law-abiding citizens
    •The loss of billions in tax revenue from cultivation, distribution, and sales, which can be used for all substance abuse treatment
    •The redirection of valuable police time and resources from solving and preventing true crime
    •The filling of our jails with non-violent offenders, exposing them to true criminals and forcing the early release of dangerous criminals
    •All sales, over 10 million pounds per year, are unregulated and placed in the hands of criminals who never check ID
    •The empowerment and expansion of underground markets as a very popular substance is placed within them
    •Increased violent crime as dealers and buyers have no legal recourse to resolve disputes
    •Increased exposure to hard drugs as many cannabis consumers buy from suppliers who have access to them, even push them
    •Increased likelihood of contamination with anything from harmful pesticides and molds to other drugs
    •The prevention of some adults from choosing a recreational substance less harmful than alcohol
    •The notion that all illegal drugs are particularly dangerous is weakened
    •Increased corruption within the legal system
    •The invasion of our civil liberties, which in America we hold in especially high regard
    •The prevention of people from receiving effective medicine
    •The prevention of people from receiving decent employment, scholarship money, and student aid due to their “criminal” record, which affects not just them but their family as well
    •Families are torn apart as members are imprisoned or children taken away in the name of “protecting them”
    •Increased support of tremendous multinational criminal networks
    •Increased public mistrust, disrespect, and disdain for our legal system, police, and government, which is devastating to our country

    Considering these great costs, it is unreasonable to continue this policy against a substance objectively less harmful than alcohol. Why are we forcing police to deal with something that is, if anything, a minor public health issue? Why are we criminalizing people for something that has been safely enjoyed by millions of Americans for decades, something that a majority of Americans believe should be legalized recreationally?

    Cannabis prohibition is a travesty of justice based on irrational fears and paranoia from an archaic era that needs to end now. Cannabis must be legalized and regulated similar to alcohol. Prohibition policies do not work for popular things that are safely enjoyed by many…especially not in a country that values liberty, justice, and freedom.

    A vote to end cannabis prohibition is a vote to condemn a costly prohibition that causes more harm than it prevents.

    Please urge your legislators to implement a cannabis policy similar to that of alcohol. Consider what the following cannabis legalization organizations have to say. Help end this harmful, unjust, unfounded, unpopular, un-American prohibition by joining their mailing lists, signing their petitions and writing your legislators when they call for it.

    MPP – The Marijuana Policy Project –
    DPA – Drug Policy Alliance –
    NORML – National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws –
    LEAP – Law Enforcement Against Prohibition –

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