Yesterday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) released at 4:20 P.M. (sigh) an ambitious marijuana legalization plan that is heavy on taxes, spending, regulation, and executive action.
Vermont senator and Democratic presidential candidate promises that within the first 100 days of his administration, an executive order will be issued instructing the Attorney General to remove cannabis as a controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act, a legalization advocate said This will be a huge victory.
Matthew Schweich of the Cannabis Policy Project (MPP) said: “Instructing the Attorney General to decrypt cannabis will remove major obstacles to medical cannabis research and alleviate banking problems faced by cannabis companies operating under state law.”
Cannabis is currently listed as a Schedule I drug, which prohibits cannabis companies that use state law from using U.S. banks, which means they cannot access financing, payment processing services, or even basic bank accounts.
Sanders’ plan also calls for deleting records of those convicted for federal marijuana, resentencing federal marijuana prisoners, and providing the same funding to states and cities. Schweitzer said that while layoffs go beyond the president’s right to pardon and will require the cooperation of the courts (and even Congress), the transfer of executive authority to layoffs will speed up the process.
Since this is Sanders’ plan, his legalization initiative also requires more federal spending and regulation. Sanders hopes to tax $ 50 billion on the new legal cannabis industry over 10 years, and then use that revenue for new grants and development plans. This includes a $ 20 billion grant to “colored entrepreneurs who continue to face discrimination in access to capital.” An additional $ 10 billion in grants will go to “enterprises that are owned or controlled by individuals in the most affected areas or individuals arrested or convicted for cannabis crime, at least 51%.”
Sanders will establish a separate but similar $ 10 billion grant program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to subsidize cannabis cultivation operations run by people with a history of cannabis arrests or convictions. Finally, he will set up another $ 10 billion community development fund to “provide grants to communities hit hardest by the drug war.”
To prevent “mostly white, mostly male, already wealthy ‘cannabiz’ entrepreneurs” from dominating the industry, Sanders will impose strict, if not specified, market shares and franchise caps on cannabis companies. His plan will also bar tobacco companies and any other companies that “make carcinogenic products” or companies convicted of deceptive marketing tactics from participating in the cannabis industry.
“The idea of stopping tobacco companies from investing in cannabis companies needs to be carefully scrutinized from a constitutional perspective,” Schweich said. “If we regulate them properly, their investors are not important.”
Schweecht believes that as long as marijuana companies are prohibited from making false claims about their products or targeting children, the special ownership of these companies will not really attract the attention of the federal government.
All things considered, Sanders’ plan will greatly reduce the federal government’s destructive, misleading, and outdated ban on cannabis. Cannabis can also be cancelled through unilateral administrative measures. So it’s important to get Sanders committed to this in advance.
The large amount of new spending and taxes Sanders wants to match with legalization, not to mention his anti-corporate regulatory regime, could make it difficult to bring the entire existing cannabis industry into the legal market. But these factors can also be a difficult choice for any Congress.
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