Bernie Sanders says he’d legalize marijuana by executive order

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Joe Rogan’s podcast “The Joe Rogan Experience” is quickly becoming a stop on the campaign trail, along with deli counters in New Hampshire and county fairs in Iowa. The entrepreneur Andrew Yang and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard have already made a visit to Rogan’s podcast, but Sen. Bernie Sanders is the biggest name in politics yet to stop by the show.

The podcast represents a platform where candidates can dive into their ideas on policy in-depth, and Sanders did just that in his Aug. 6 episode. In a back and forth with Rogan over a little more than an hour, they covered Sanders’ take on the minimum wage, Medicare for All and criminal justice — including the need to reform federal marijuana laws, and how Sanders would get it done via executive order.

Rogan posed a question to Sanders on cannabis legalization, noting the fact that the illicit market continues to fuel cartels who load their weed up with pesticides.

“Let me say this, 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,” Sanders replied. “We have more people in jail than China does, which is a communist authoritarian country.”

Sanders said that he is calling for the legalization of marijuana in America, in part because the Controlled Substances Act is nonsensical, given that marijuana and heroin are categorized together.

“That is insane,” Sanders said. “Heroin is a killer drug. You can argue the pluses and minuses of marijuana, but marijuana ain’t heroin. So we have to end that, and that’s what I will do.”

Sanders said as president, he believes he will be empowered to change the law via executive order, “and I will do that.”

Sanders went on to say he is very proud of the states that have pushed forward on legalization and decriminalization.

“What seemed kind of radical, the need to legalize and decriminalize marijuana… still is spreading all over the country,” Sanders said. “And by the way, it blows my mind. The drive-thrus in Nevada, here in California, you see signs from corporations, ‘Buy our marijuana.’ Four years ago, people were getting arrested for doing that, right? Their lives being destroyed.”

“Particularly in Nevada,” Rogan replied. “There were life sentences given out in the ’70s.”

“Can you believe that?” Sanders quipped back. “And now you have corporations selling the damn product people went to jail for.”

Sanders said ultimately he thinks the United States will have to legalize marijuana and pointed to restorative justice measures across the country as part of the good news.

“Some cities are expunging records, so if you’re arrested or have a criminal record for selling marijuana, that is being expunged and that’s the right thing to do,” he said.

However, Sanders did make clear that he’s “not a huge fan of drugs.” He referenced a couple of times that he tried marijuana, but said it didn’t do much for him. When Rogan asked Sanders where he got it, he replied “Northern Vermont.”

“That’s the problem,” Rogan said, as Sanders laughed along. “You got to get some here [in California]. It’ll do something for you.”

Rogan spoke of the hard drugs in urban centers leading to cycles of incarceration, he asked Sanders if he had any plans on decriminalizing or legalizing all drugs.

“No, not at this point,” Sanders replied, “but you’re touching on a real tragedy. And when we talk about criminal justice in America we have over two million people in jail. They are disproportionately African American, Latino and Native American. I think in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, what we have got to do instead of building more jails and locking up more people, we really do have to invest in our young people. Especially young people in distressed communities.”

Sanders thinks one component to helping with substance abuse issues is just doing whatever we can to make sure the most at-risk youth finish high school.

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