When we talk about criminal justice reform and ending institutional racism in America, we are talking about ending the disastrous war on drugs, which has disproportionately targeted people of color and ruined the lives of millions of Americans.
African Americans are nearly four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white Americans even though people in this country use marijuana at roughly the same rates across all races.
Why is it that in 2019, you can get arrested for smoking marijuana, but not one of the crooks on Wall Street went to jail for nearly destroying the economy 11 years ago? Why is it that millions of dollars are being made by mostly white, mostly male, and already rich “cannabiz” entrepreneurs in states where marijuana is legal, while the people and communities that were ravaged by the War on Drugs have been shut out of the industry, denied credit, and many are still incarcerated? That is going to change when Bernie is president.
Under this plan, not only will Bernie take executive action to legalize marijuana by removing it from the Controlled Substance Act, he will expunge past convictions of marijuana related offenses, and ensure that victims of the War on Drugs are not passed over by the burgeoning marijuana industry.
It is time to admit the criminalization of marijuana was a disaster, especially for communities of color, and allow those most impacted to move forward with their lives. Our job now is to legalize marijuana and vacate and expunge past marijuana convictions, and ensure that revenue from legal marijuana is reinvested in communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs.
Four years ago, the establishment media and politicians told us legalizing marijuana was “too radical.” Today, 11 states have legalized recreational marijuana and 33 states have legalized medical marijuana. Marijuana legalization is supported by a majority of the American people. We’ve come a long way in the last few years. Now we are going to complete what we started. We’re going to legalize marijuana and invest in communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs.
Ending The War On Marijuana And Undoing Its Damage
As president, Bernie will:
Legalize marijuana in the first 100 days with executive action by:
- Nominating an attorney general, HHS secretary, and administrator for the DEA who will all work to aggressively end the drug war and legalize marijuana
- Immediately issuing an executive order that directs the Attorney General to declassify marijuana as a controlled substance
- While Congress must aggressively move to end the war on drugs and undo its damage, as president Bernie will not wait for Congress to act.
- Declassifying marijuana will eliminate the current onerous barriers to banking services for growers and dispensaries and allow them to access the banking system like any other business.
- Passing legislation to ensure permanent legalization of marijuana
Vacate and expunge all past marijuana-related convictions.
- In a Sanders administration we will review all marijuana convictions - both federal and state - for expungement and re-sentencing. All past convictions will be expunged.
- Based on the California model, we will direct federal and state authorities to review current and past marijuana related convictions for eligibility. This review will include re-sentencing for all currently incarcerated with marijuana convictions. Following determination of eligibility or status, prosecutors will have one year to appeal or object, after which authorities will automatically expunge and vacate past marijuana convictions for all those eligible.
- Federal funding will be provided to states and cities to partner with organizations that can help develop and operate the expungement determination process, much like how California worked with Code for America.
- Allow people with marijuana convictions to contact the state to ensure the list did not miss them. And we will grant people with marijuana related convictions an administrative remedy, if after two years, the state has not taken action on their sentences and records.
- Revitalize the executive clemency process by creating an independent clemency board removed from the Department of Justice and placed in the White House.
- Ensure a just reentry for people leaving incarceration as detailed in Bernie’s Justice and Safety for All plan.
Ensure that revenue from legal marijuana is reinvested in communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs, especially African-American and other communities of color.
With new tax resources from legal marijuana sales, we will:
- Create a $20 billion grant program within the Minority Business Development Agency to provide grants to entrepreneurs of color who continue to face discrimination in access to capital.
- With this revenue we will also create a $10 billion grant program to focus on businesses that are at least 51% owned or controlled by those in disproportionately impacted areas or individuals who have been arrested for or convicted of marijuana offenses.
- Provide formerly incarcerated individuals with training and resources needed to start their own businesses and worker owned businesses, and guarantee jobs and free job training at trade schools and apprenticeship programs related to marijuana businesses.
- In states like Vermont, Pennsylvania and Ohio, employee ownership centers promote worker ownership and provide valuable technical support for businesses and workers. We will expand on this success and create employee ownership centers across the country and expand existing organizations. These employee ownership centers will work in coordination with the Minority Business Development Agency grant program to provide the training and technical support needed to formerly incarcerated individuals and people in areas disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs to start worker owned businesses and cooperatives.
- Use revenue from marijuana sales to establish a targeted $10 billion USDA grant program to help disproportionately impacted areas and individuals who have been arrested for or convicted of marijuana offenses start urban and rural farms and urban and rural marijuana growing operations to ensure people impacted by the war on drugs have access to the entire marijuana industry.
- These grants will be used for design, technical assistance, purchasing equipment, installing infrastructure, and more. We will help disproportionately impacted areas and individuals who have been arrested for or convicted of marijuana offenses get fair access to land and resources through the Disadvantaged and Beginning Farm State Coordinator program.
- Allocate funds for bilingual and multi-racial outreach to affected communities, including immigrant communities, to diversify economic development.
- We will ensure these marijuana farmers are paid a fair price for their products with tools like supply management and reserves and transition toward a parity system to guarantee marijuana farmers a living wage. And we will establish a national system to certify organic marijuana to give consumers the information they need to make an informed decision.
- Create a $10 billion targeted economic and community development fund to provide grants to communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs.
- We will also ensure that every community in the country has the resources they need to address our opioid addiction crisis and prevent the abuse of other hard drugs. And we will work with states to fund and pursue innovative overdose prevention initiatives.
Eliminate barriers to public benefits for people who have interacted with the criminal justice system, including licenses and contracts, based on prior records, and eliminate drug testing requirements from future benefits and ensure people cannot be removed from public housing for marijuana use.
- We will also direct agencies to remove all references to marijuana that limit people’s ability to access government services and we will eliminate the consequences of a marijuana record related to immigration.
Ensure Legalized Marijuana Does Not Turn Into Big Tobacco
Big Tobacco is already targeting the marijuana industry for its profits. As president, Bernie will not allow marijuana to turn into Big Tobacco. He will:
- Incentivize marijuana businesses to be structured like nonprofits.
- We will provide resources for people to start cooperatives and collective nonprofits as marijuana businesses that will create jobs and economic growth in local communities.
- Prohibit products and labels that target young people.
- Ban companies that have created cancer-causing products or guilty of deceptive marketing.
- Ban tobacco/cigarette corporations from participating in the marijuana industry.
- Institute market share and franchise caps to prevent consolidation and profiteering.
- Regulate the safety of marijuana products by granting the federal government regulatory authority. Partner with USDA to establish safety inspection and quality control processes for growers and producers.