US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has vowed to legalise cannabis if he is elected to the White House.
The 77-year-old Democrat is going head-to-head with his old foe Donald Trump next year, and he has promised to put marijuana at the top of the political agenda.
Sanders plans to give the green light to recreational cannabis throughout the States, while Trump’s anticipated stance falls short of full legalisation.
Instead, Trump has suggested he would back policy changes for widespread reform to open up the medical cannabis industry, but he will draw the line at recreational use.
The contest mirrors a similar political battle in 1981 when Ronald Reagan swept to power after taking a hard-line approach to then-president Jimmy Carter’s proposals for a full legalisation of marijuana.
Carter, whose popularity was on the wane, had pinned his hopes for retaining office on an America that wanted to see cannabis legalised. Reagan, on the other hand, believed the US wasn’t ready for such a move and took the opposite tack.
America’s conservative leaning against drugs won the day, and the former Hollywood heartthrob spent the following eight years occupying the Oval Office.
Fast-forward four decades, and Bernie Sanders is hoping for a similar result – albeit a reversal of the 1980 presidential campaign.
Sanders set out his cannabis rhetoric during a recent TV interview with Joe Rogan where he pledged to legalise marijuana by executive order.
“When I ran for president for the Democratic nomination in 2016, I talked about a broken criminal justice system, which ends up having in the United States more people in jail than any other country,” he said.
“And what I called for then, and I call for now, is the legalisation of marijuana in America.”
He also took a swipe at the federal Controlled Substances Act, which categorises cannabis alongside cocaine, heroin and other hard drugs.
“That is insane – heroin is a killer drug,” he lambasted.
“You can argue the plusses and minuses of marijuana, but marijuana ain’t heroin!
“So, we have to end that and that’s what I will do as President of the United States – I believe we can do that through executive order and I will do that.”
He also promised to echo Canada’s current policy of wiping criminal records clean for minor marijuana misdemeanours.
“I think ultimately we have got to legalize marijuana, and what’s good news is some communities, some cities, are expunging the records,” he explained.
“So, if you were arrested and have a criminal record for selling marijuana, that is being expunged – and that is the right thing to do.”