Sen. Bernie Sanders lays out plan to legalize marijuana

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Thursday unveiled a proposal to legalize marijuana within his first 100 days in office as president with an executive order.

Sanders vowed to immediately declassify marijuana as a controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act if elected president.

Federal law currently classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug ― along with heroin, LSD and ecstasy, meaning it is considered to have no medicinal use and have a high potential for abuse.

“We’re going to legalize marijuana and end the horrifically destructive war on drugs,” Sanders said in a statement announcing his proposal. “It has disproportionately targeted people of color and ruined the lives of millions of Americans.”

The Democratic presidential contender plans to expunge all past marijuana convictions ― on a state and federal level ― and to use a federal marijuana sales tax to fund a $20 billion grant program that would benefit minority entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs who had been previously arrested for marijuana offenses.

Sanders’ plan also prevents the tobacco industry from taking over the legalized marijuana sales industry and offers incentives to entrepreneurs who opt to start their marijuana-based businesses as cooperatives and nonprofits instead of for-profit enterprises.

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Legal recreational marijuana sold in California
Customers buy recreational marijuana at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, California U.S. January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Marijuana is displayed for sale at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, California U.S. January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
A customer browses marijuana products for sale at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, California U.S. January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Customers queue for recreational marijuana outside the MedMen store in West Hollywood, California U.S. January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
A customer browses screens displaying recreational marijuana products for sale at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, California U.S. January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
A woman holds marijuana for sale at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, California U.S. January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Marijuana edibles are displayed for sale at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, California U.S. January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Eron Silverstein, 51, (R) shops for marijuana at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, California U.S. January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Marijuana products are displayed for sale at the MedMen store in West Hollywood, California U.S. January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Customers purchase marijuana at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensary dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana sales in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
People wait in line at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana sales in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
A customer waits at the counter to purchase marijuana as others wait in line at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Andrew DeAngelo (L) and his brother Steve DeAngelo (R), co-founders of Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, celebrate after a ceremonial ribbon cutting on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
An employee hugs a customer as others wait in line at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
An employee finds marijuana for a customer at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Employees wait behind the counter at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, as a large clock counts down to the store's official opening at 6am on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Oakland, California, U.S. January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Different strains of marijuana are seen for sale at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
A couple poses behind a cardboard Instagram frame while waiting in line at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Employees prepare to open at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Steve DeAngelo (C) makes the first legal recreational marijuana sale to Henry Wykowski at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana sales in Oakland, California, U.S. January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Michael Sherman purchases marijuana at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana sales in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
A customer peers at different marijuana strains in a glass case at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Marijuana is seen for sale at Harborside, one of California's largest and oldest dispensaries of medical marijuana, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana sales in Oakland, California, U.S., January 1, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
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“When we’re in the White House, we’re going to end the greed and corruption of the big corporations and make sure that Americans hit hardest by the war on drugs will be the first to benefit from legalization,” the senator said in his state

Sanders is not the first Democratic contender to back broad reform on laws prohibiting marijuana use. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also supports legalizing marijuana, declassifying it as a Schedule I drug and expunging past marijuana convictions.

Former Vice President Joe Biden supports decriminalizing marijuana and expunging past convictions, though he has proposed classifying the drug as a Schedule II substance. Doing so would place the severity of marijuana on par with 15 milligrams of hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone, fentanyl or Adderall instead of completely legalizing it.

Sanders has long advocated for the legalization of marijuana. In February, the senator co-sponsored a bill with Warren, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) aimed at legalizing marijuana and expunging past marijuana offenses on a federal level.

Sanders returned to his campaign last weekend with a rally in Queens, New York, after taking a break after having a heart attack.

At the Saturday rally, the senator said his plans to legalize the drug would also involve tackling criminal justice reform and racial injustices.

“We are going to end the horrifically destructive war on drugs and legalize marijuana,” Sanders told his supporters. “And we are going to end the disgrace of 400,000 people right now locked behind bars because they are too poor to afford cash bail.”

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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