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Sanders offers bill to legalize marijuana

The Hill logo The Hill 11/4/2015 Tim Devaney
Sanders offers bill to legalize marijuana © Provided by The Hill Sanders offers bill to legalize marijuana

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) has introduced legislation to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. 

The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act introduced Wednesday by Sanders would end the long-time federal prohibition on marijuana. This is the first Senate bill to propose legalizing recreational pot, according to marijuana advocates. 

The legislation would remove the barriers for states that want to legalize recreational and medical marijuana without interference from the federal government. However, other states could still choose to prohibit pot.

The move could help Sanders further endear himself to younger voters as he seeks the Democratic presidential nomination. He became the first candidate from a major party to endorse marijuana legalization last week.

"We need major changes in our criminal justice system — including changes in drug laws,” Sanders told students at Virginia's George Mason University last week. “Too many Americans have seen their lives destroyed because they have criminal records as a result of marijuana use. That’s wrong. That has got to change.”

Another bill backed by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirstin Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) would legalize medical marijuana. Other pieces of legislation would address the tax status and give banking access to marijuana businesses.

But this is the first Senate bill to propose entirely ending the federal prohibition on marijuana.

"A growing majority of Americans want states to be able to enact their own marijuana laws without harassment from the DEA, and lawmakers should listen,” said Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority.

"Sen. Sanders is simply proposing that we treat marijuana similarly to how we treat alcohol at the federal level, leaving most of the details to the states,” added Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project. 

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