Bernie Sanders, the only Democratic Socialist running for president in 2016 , just introduced a bill in the US Senate that would end the US prohibition on marijuana, following through on the promise he made to college students last week to take steps to legalize pot at the federal level.
Throwing his weight behind marijuana legalization might turn out to be a smart move for Sanders, and Independent Senator from Vermont, in the lead-up to the first Democratic presidential primary in New Hampshire. According to a poll released by Gallup last month, 58 percent of Americans support legalization—including seven in 10 young adults.
Tomorrow, the Sanders campaign is staging a rally at the New Hampshire State House as he officially submits his paperwork to declare his eligibility for the primary. New Hampshire has passed multiple laws aimed at legalizing medical marijuana, and preventing medical prosecutions.
Sanders' opponent, Hillary Clinton, hasn't voiced support for marijuana legalization, and has said she would like to see "more research" before she announces a position.
Sanders, though, has been hammering the issue for at least a week, citing it as one of the centerpieces of his plans to reform the country's criminal justice system. ""When we talk about criminal justice reform, we also need to understand that millions of people have been arrested for using marijuana," Sanders said in a statement last Friday. "We must recognize that blacks are four times more likely than whites to get arrested for marijuana possession, even though the same proportion of blacks and whites use marijuana. Any serious criminal justice reform must include removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act."
The new bill, formally titled the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2015, or EFMPA, would strike any mention of marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, which famously places marijuana alongside other Schedule 1 drugs like heroin—the ostensibly scary narcotics deemed to have no possible medical use.
If passed, the law would allow states to set their own marijuana laws, although it would still be illegal to traffic marijuana across state borders into places where marijuana prohibitions remain in place.
This is the second Senate bill proposed in 2015 aimed at loosening federal prohibitions on weed. Earlier this year, Senators Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Rand Paul, a Republican presidential candidate,introduced a bill known as the CARERS Act, which would end the federal ban on medical marijuana.
Follow Mike Pearl on Twitter.
Note: A previous version incorrectly mentioned cocaine alongside schedule 1 drugs.