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Bern-ing Green: Sanders supports marijuana legalization

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a CNN Democratic presidential debate Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

At Tuesday’s Democratic candidate debate, Bernie Sanders expressed support for the legalization of recreational marijuana use.

When asked how he would vote on Nevada’s ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana, Sanders said “I suspect I would vote yes.”

“I think we have to think through this war on drugs which has done an enormous amount of damage. We need to rethink our criminal justice system, we we’ve got a lot of work to do in that area,” Sanders elaborated.

Hillary Clinton is much more cautious on marijuana legalization, and she refused to give her opinion on states that have pushed to legalize marijuana.

No other Democratic candidate had the opportunity to answer a question about marijuana.

A March poll showed that a majority of Americans support marijuana legalization. Though Sanders appears radical on marijuana, he’s in line with public opinion.

Pro-legalization groups expect a lot from Sanders on the issue, according to Buzzfeed. Among Republicans, Rand Paul is the only candidate supportive of state efforts to legalize the drug and has found some success in fundraising among the marijuana industry.

Democrats support legalization more than Republicans, but it isn’t a defining issue for many voters. The willingness of Sanders to declare his support could encourage other candidates to follow suit, but public pressure doesn’t make it a priority. Young voters are more likely to support legalization, and until they vote in larger numbers, legalization will remain a second-tier issue in the presidential debate so as not to alienate older voters.


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