At last night's Student Town Hall at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders made his strongest statement yet in behalf of marijuana legalization.
Sanders: "In 2014, the latest statistics that I have seen, there were 620,000 arrests for marijuana possession. That is one arrest every minute. According to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union, there were more than eight million marijuana arrests in the United States from 2001 to 2010. Almost nine in 10 of those arrests were for possession. Arrests for marijuana possession arrests rose last year nationwide, even as Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia became the first states to legalize personal use of marijuana. And let us be clear, as is the case in many other areas, that there is a racial component to this situation. Although about the same proportion of blacks and whites use marijuana, a black person is almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person.
"Too many Americans have seen their lives destroyed because they have criminal records as a result of marijuana use. That is wrong, that has got to change. Let's be clear that a criminal record could mean not only time in jail, but it makes it harder for a person to get a job, harder for a person to get public benefits, harder for a person to even get housing. A criminal record stays with a person for his or her entire life. It is a serious business.
"Right now, marijuana is listed by the federal government as a Schedule I drug, meaning that it is considered to be as dangerous as heroin. That is absurd.
'In my view, the time is long overdue for us to remove the federal prohibition on marijuana. In my view, states should have the right to regulate marijuana the same way that state and local laws now govern the sale of alcohol and tobacco. And among other things, that means that recognized businesses in states that have legalized marijuana should be fully able to use the banking system without fear of federal prosecution.'