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Bernie Sanders Releases Plan to Legalize Cannabis

January 6, 2020

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is widely known for his cannabis activism. Yet, his detailed plan goes further than removing cannabis as a schedule one drug. The comprehensive plan includes a proposal to limit holdings by big tobacco companies and other industries who have an interest in maintaining a monopoly. Let’s take a look at the cannabis proposal and the effects on marijuana dispensaries long-term. 

Rescheduling Cannabis

As mentioned previously, this proposal states that an executive order will be signed directing the attorney general to remove cannabis as a schedule one substance. This would effectively legalize cannabis at the federal level. The removal of cannabis as a schedule one narcotic would alleviate many concerns about legalizing at the state level.  Fear of a federal crackdown has been a constant concern for cannabis businesses. One has to look no further than the issues that still plague dispensaries in California — one of the most progressive cannabis states. 

Currently, the federal illegality has kept many credit unions and banking institutions from accepting cannabis deposits. Accepting money from these businesses would be essentially breaking the law. Cannabis’ federal status ensures businesses that function in this industry cannot file for tax deductions available to others. The result can lead to a drastic increase in taxes and difficult to manage profit margins. 

Social Equity & Expungements

The proposed bill would would push for the expungement of cannabis convictions at a state and federal level and create a grant for entrepreneurs in areas who have been disproportionately affected by unjust laws. For these areas, the bill would also establish safe injection sites to prevent drug overdoses and help people transition into drug treatment centers. 

The plan will provide a $20 billion grant to provide business grants to owners of color through the Minority Business Development Agency. An additional $10 billion grant will focus on businesses at least 51% of the ownership by residents who have been arrested or convicted of cannabis crimes.

Banning Big Tobacco

Finally, and most important for many cannabis small businesses: the prevention of cannabis monopolies. Even for supporters of cannabis legalization, there has been a latent fear of cannabis ending up much like tobacco. The proposal would actually bar tobacco companies from involvement in the cannabis industry. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders Plan outlines 3 stipulations in regards to big corporations:

  • Companies who have formerly created cancer-causing products or have been found guilty of deceptive marketing will be banned from the industry.
  • Tobacco and cigarette corporations will be banned from entering the cannabis space.
  • Market share and franchise caps will be put in place to prevent profiteering and consolidation.

Though not explicitly stated in the plan, an advisor for the Sanders’ campaign has stated that Senator Bernie Sanders would not rule out medical cannabis coverage through his Medicare for All policy.


Contributed by Richard Sanchez