In a February 2019 announcement, Bernie Sanders formally declared his intention to enter the Democratic primary for the 2020 Presidential race. For the 2016 run, he was beat out by Hillary Clinton during the primary. She was later defeated by Donald Trump.

Although he will formally run as a Democrat if he wins the primary, Mr. Sanders has not been affiliated with either the Democrats or the Republicans for the majority of his political career. He has maintained his independent status since the 1970s while still being able to get elected to a variety of offices, even when running against candidates with deep pockets and huge campaign funds.

Even though Bernie is expected to stay true to his ideals as he has in the past, he believes that joining a major party is a "political necessity" if he wants to put in his bid for the presidency. As Bernie explained in a USA Today interview: "It would require an enormous amount of time, energy and money just to get on the ballot in 50 states. It made a lot more sense for me to work within the Democratic primary system where it's much easier to get on the ballot and have a chance to debate the other candidates".

WILL THE OLDEST US PRESIDENT EVER ELECTED LEGALIZE WEED?

If elected, Bernie will be 79 years old at the inauguration, and 83 when his first term ends four years later. That would make him the oldest president to ever be elected to office. Despite his age, Bernie appears to be full of vigour, and his progressive platform appeals to American youth as well as the nation's poorest communities.

Bernie Sanders describes himself as a democratic socialist, consistently advocating for reform and economic equality. According to both his voting record and his public statements, he doesn't waver in his views and sticks to his principles regardless of opposition. He's in favour of government-sponsored healthcare, an increased minimum wage, and tuition-free public universities. Bernie would also be the first US President to ever openly endorse the full legalization of cannabis at both the state and federal level.

Not only does Bernie endorse full legalization—it's near the top of his priority list. He clearly stated when he announced his latest intention to run for President that the US government "needs to end the destructive war on drugs". And, in a Tweet, “I am running for President because we need to invest in jobs and education for our kids, not more jails and incarceration. We need to end the destructive war on drugs, private prisons, and cash bail, and bring about major police department reform”.

In addition to anticipated campaign promises, he has a new book out called Where We Go from Here: Two Years in the Resistancethat talks about the dangers of cannabis prohibition. He is also a co-sponsor of the Marijuana Justice Act. This new law, if passed, would do more than take marijuana off the scheduled drugs list; it would penalise states that make cannabis illegal, especially if their cannabis arrests are racially biased. If Bernie is elected, it's almost guaranteed that something will happen.

Bernie Sanders

WHY DOES BERNIE SANDERS BELIEVE CANNABIS SHOULD BE LEGAL?

If you've never heard Bernie's views on cannabis, they're going to sound surprisingly familiar. His approach is logical and filled with common sense. Here's the breakdown:

1. Cannabis is not dangerous, so it shouldn't be a scheduled drug like heroin or cocaine.

Like the majority of people with common sense, Bernie doesn't believe cannabis is dangerous. He even admits he tried it twice himself as a young person, although it only made him "cough his guts out". Bernie didn't get high or feel much of anything, but he admits that others may have a much different experience. He's isn't advocating for cannabis use, but he also knows it's not a killer like heroin. In Bernie's own words during a public speech:

"We also know, and people can argue this ’til the cows come home and scientists dispute it, marijuana is not heroin… I’m not here advocating for marijuana. Marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drug alongside of heroin. (Boos from the audience) I agree, and that is why I believe we should take marijuana out of the federal Controlled Substances Act”.

When Hillary Clinton proposed moving cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule II, Bernie was quick to say she was missing the point. That slight reclassification would make cannabis the same, legally, as cocaine instead of heroin, but still allow for unnecessary prosecution and incarceration.

2. Too many people's lives have been harmed by marijuana convictions.

The prisons and jails across the United States are filled with people convicted of marijuana charges. Some are also convicted of more serious crimes, but many are guilty of nothing more than growing their own weed, selling small amounts, or simply possessing as little as an ounce. They are treated no differently than if they had robbed or raped. And, in some cases, those convicted of relatively harmless marijuana charges can spend as much time behind bars, if not more, as hardened criminals.

Even in the case of a simple misdemeanor possession charge, where only probation or a suspended sentence is involved, the penalty is overly harsh. The person may not ever do actual jail time, but the charges will haunt them for years should they apply to a university, look for a job, or even try to rent an apartment.

Bernie doesn't think that the punishment fits the crime. In his own words: “It is an obscenity that we stigmatize so many young Americans with a criminal record for smoking marijuana, but oddly enough not one major Wall Street executive has been prosecuted for causing the near collapse of our entire economy. Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me”.

Bernie Sanders Cannabis

3. Marijuana laws impact minorities disproportionately.

There are few, if any, racial dividing lines in America when it comes to cannabis use. However, if you're black and smoke weed, you're four times more likely to be arrested than your white friends. That number might go up even more if you're poor. This shouldn't even come as a secret. All you have to do is watch an American reality show where a camera follows a police officer. As soon as they pull over an African American, the first thing they say is "I smell weed".

Here's how Bernie explains it in 2015 during his talk with Killer Mike, activist and rapper of Run the Jewels fame: “Where it becomes a racial issue, it turns out that whites and blacks utilized marijuana roughly equal. Four times as many blacks are arrested for possession as whites. It becomes a racial issue”.

And, in a 2016 tweet, "For decades, we have been engaged in a failed ‘War on Drugs’ with racially-biased mandatory minimums that punish people of colour unfairly".

WHAT IS BERNIE SANDERS' HISTORY WHEN IT COMES TO DRUG REFORM?

Throughout his political career, Bernie Sanders has publicly stated his support for ending the war on drugs. In fact, he's such an advocate for reform that NORML gives him an A+ rating based on his stellar track record.

In 1972, Bernie ran for governor of Vermont. During his campaign, he stated that the government should toss out any laws that pertain to sexual behaviour, drugs, or abortion on the basis that the very idea of American freedom was being eroded by those very laws.

When Vermont began its quest for legal medical marijuana, Bernie supported the idea. Medical marijuana was legalized in the state in 2004, with cultivation and recreational use becoming legal in mid-2018. Selling cannabis is still illegal.

In 2005, Bernie voted "Yes" to the Medical Marijuana Use Amendment as a member of the US House of Representatives. This proposed regulation did not pass, but it sought to prevent the Department of Justice from going after people who used or distributed medical marijuana in legal states.

Bernie Sanders was the first US senator to introduce a bill to end cannabis prohibition at the federal level. It was called the Ending Federal Prohibition Act of 2015 and, obviously, didn't make it into law. Similar bills have been reintroduced by other senators and representatives since then.

Cannabis Industry

The most progressive bill Bernie supports is the Marijuana Justice Act of 2017. It's not a law yet either, but it goes past decriminalisation and rescheduling at the federal level. It will penalise states who don't legalize cannabis and continue racially-biased enforcement by withholding federal funds. The new law will also clear criminal records of federal convictions for marijuana use or possession and give funding to communities who were most impacted by the government's war on drugs.

Bernie backed 2018's Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act sponsored by New York's Chuck Schumer. This was another proposed law to decriminalise cannabis, but it also sought to "level the economic playing field" by setting up a trust fund to help women and other disadvantaged groups start small marijuana businesses. The bill also funded studies in highway safety and the impacts of long-term cannabis use on human health.

Also in 2018, Bernie Sanders was adamant in his public response to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ attempts to rollback an Obama-era policy that prevents the DEA and other federal agencies from interfering with cannabis businesses that are legal at the state level. He had this to say:

"No, Attorney General Sessions. Marijuana is not the same as heroin. No one who has seriously studied the issue believes that marijuana should be classified as a Schedule 1 drug beside killer drugs like heroin. Quite the contrary. We should allow states the right to move toward the decriminalization of marijuana, not reverse the progress that has been made in recent years".

It's virtually impossible to find a single case where Bernie Sanders did not support cannabis legalization.

BERNIE SANDERS: BEFORE HE RAN FOR PRESIDENT

Bernie Sanders is not your typical American politician. While there's growing support for independent candidates, they rarely win simply because they don't have the financial backing to get their message out. Most voters go to the polls never knowing who they are or what they stand for.

Not Bernie. He's the master of grassroots campaign funding, and is currently the longest-serving independent congressman. But how did he become one of America's most vocal advocates for the disadvantaged?

Bernie Sanders was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1941 to Jewish/Polish immigrants. His father was a paint salesman, and although he worked a steady job, the family struggled. Bernie recognised at an early age that America was divided between the very rich and the very poor.

After attending James Madison High School in Brooklyn, Bernie went on to attend Brooklyn College, followed by the University of Chicago. He became involved in the Civil Rights Movement and participated in a variety of marches and protests. This is where he first became interested in correcting America's racial disparity.

Between earning his degree in political science in 1964 and entering politics, Bernie lived an interesting life. Before moving to Vermont, he called an Israeli kibbutz home. And he bounced around from job to job serving as a freelance writer, a psychiatric aid, a filmmaker, and an elementary school teacher.

Bernie Sanders History

Bernie tried to run for public office several times in the 1970s, but failed miserably. In 1981, he won the election for Burlington, Vermont mayor by only 12 votes with the support of a grassroots organisation called the Progressive Coalition. He was voted back in for three more terms before turning his attention to the national stage.

In 1990, he won the election to become one of the only independent members of the House of Representatives in Washington, DC. As an outsider who didn't belong to either major party, he didn't have many friends there, but he continued his vocal opposition to unfairness.

Sanders surprised many in 2006 when he was voted into the Senate, even though he ran against Richard Tarrant, an opponent so wealthy he put $7 million of his own money toward his campaign. While in the Senate, Bernie has served on many committees related to health, education, veterans affairs, and the country's budget. He continues to champion causes close to his heart, including helping the nation's poorest, most disenfranchised citizens and advocating for sensible legal reform wherever he sees injustice.

In 2015, Bernie Sanders started his first failed quest for the US Presidency, but one failure doesn't stop Bernie. He will continue to strive for better government and a better America in his life as a public servant.

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