Presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders has pledged to legalize cannabis on his first day in office as President of the United States. At a political rally held just last week in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Senator Sanders told an eager crowd of progressive voters, “We will end the destructive war on drugs. On my first day in office through executive order we will legalize marijuana in every state in this country.” This in the wake of what many are calling the Iowa Caucus disaster. After much confusion, the remainder of the much-awaited caucus results were finally released on Wednesday, nearly two days after most people had anticipated them.  The final results revealed that Senator Sanders had won the popular vote across the state of Iowa, however, in the end, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg won the highest number of delegates, albeit by a slim margin, making him the official winner.  Senator Sanders has made cannabis legalization a major part of his 2020 campaign platform. Bernie intends to do more than just legalize marijuana; criminal justice reform and expunging records of those convicted of misdemeanor cannabis-related crimes are both high on his list of priorities.   Sanders has been a longstanding supporter of marijuana legalization for decades. Back in 1972, after a failed run for Governor of Vermont, Bernie wrote an article for Chittenden Magazine titled “Fragments of a campaign diary.”  In the article, Senator Sanders wrote about someone calling into a local radio talk show, asking, ‘“Did I hear Mr. Sanders say that he was for the legalization of marijuana?” The commentator said; “Yes, he said that.” The man said; “Could I ask Mr. Sanders if he has ever smoked marijuana?” Strangely enough, despite all the times that I had talked about the need for legalizing marijuana, that was the first time that question was every directly asked of me. I said, “Yes, I have smoked marijuana.” And that was the end of that.’ And that was back in the 1970s, long before marijuana legalization became a popular political issue, and when the stigma around marijuana use was even stronger than it is now. Some, however, have questioned whether the President can unilaterally legalize cannabis by way of an executive order in the first place.   According to Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) John Hudak, “The question first is, would states be compelled to do this? That is, does the president have the power to do this? That’s the first step.” Going on, said Secretary Hudak, “The second step actually raises a more important question, and that is: can states continue to maintain a different schedule for a substance than a federal schedule? There’s plenty of evidence that a state could do that.” “A president certainly cannot force that to be allowed in states by any kind of executive action. It would really require an act of Congress to set up a commercial regulatory system nationwide, which, even then, you are on very shaky constitutional grounds to do that kind of thing,” added Secretary Hudak. Editor's Note: The above image at the top of this page was cropped for sizing and is licensed under CC By 2.0

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