Bernie Sanders recently introduced a bill to the Senate that tackles the issue of legalizing marijuana . The bill fights for the legalization of marijuana at the federal level and is the first bill of its kind to be formally introduced in Congress. However, it distracts attention from more important issues.
Sanders says that marijuana should be removed from the Controlled Substance Act. “That’s a federal decision,” he said. “The state decision is that we live in a federal system of government where issues like tobacco and alcohol are significant regulated by the states. And I think that is a province of the states.” Sanders believes that each state should have their own right to regulate marijuana.
Some states — Colorado, Washington and Alaska — have already decided to legalize the drug in the face of opposing federal law. “The state wants to go forward, they should be able to go forward without legal impediments from the federal government, and that’s what this legislation is about.”
This impediment from the federal government prevents stores that sell marijuana from using banks because it is in violation of federal law.
While I understand Sanders’ argument of this being more of a state issue rather than a federal issue, I disagree with the timing of this legislation. There are many things that are more important and need the attention of Congress such as the war on terror,, and a recreational drug is not one of them.
From a politician’s standpoint, this is the perfect time to bring this bill to Congress. Bringing drug law into the political conversation will gardner significant support for Sanders, especially at a time when everyone is paying attention to politics in the year leading up to a presidential election.
Approval of marijuana legalization differs by age, but millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers all have more than 50 percent approval for the measure, according to Pew Research Center. Legalization is supported by only 30 percent of the silent generation. His proposal of this bill definitely plays to his most devout followers, which are primarily young college students and strong liberal supporters.
But even if the measure has support it should not be the focus of a country that is just starting to crawl out of a recession, dealing with multiple Middle Eastern quagmires and a system of governance that many citizens are disillusioned with due to inability to get things done. Our society has become so disillusioned by miniscule things, like weed, and we become distracted and don’t focus on what we need to see happen.
When talking about why marijuana needs to be legalized — or with his current argument in Congress, why states should have the right to legalize–, Sanders stated, “In the United States we have 2.2 million people in jail today, more than any other country. And we’re spending about $80 billion a year to lock people up. We need major changes in our criminal justice system – including changes in drug laws.”
While I agree that the prison system is in need of reform, I don’t think the legalization of weed is an appropriate step in the right direction. I would rather see marijuana brought down to an offense that results in just a simple fine when caught with a certain amount or under the influence of the drug. Think of this proposition as a ticket for blazing up.
While Bernie Sanders has a strong argument with making this a state right, I would much rather hear a presidential candidate speak on issues such as foreign policy than a recreational drug. Stop trying to please the masses, and instead try to focus on what’s right for America right now … Weed is not one of those things.
Mikaela Reinard, Contributing Columnist
Staff Illustrator, Gareth Bentall
Gareth is a cartoonist and illustrator currently in his junior year as a Communication Arts student. He specializes in political cartoons, humorous illustration, underground comic trivia, bird watching, hoarding, forwarding, boogie boarding and Parcheesi. Gareth currently resides inside of his inkpot. // Facebook