Sanders urges removing pot from federal illegal drugs list

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( – “We have got to have the guts to rethink the so-called war on drugs,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said at Thursday’s Democrat debate in Brooklyn.

He identified the issue as one of the differences between himself and his rival Hillary Clinton.

“Too many lives have been destroyed because people possessed marijuana, millions over a 30-year period. And that is why I believe we should take marijuana out of the federal Controlled Substance Act,” Sanders said.

The crowd applauded his remark, which followed a discussion of crime and punishment.

Sanders said the nation’s criminal justice system is “broken.”

“We have more people in jail than any other country on Earth. And in my view, what we have got to do is rethink the system from the bottom on up. And that means, for a start — and we don’t talk about this. The media doesn’t talk about it — you got 51 percent of African-American kids today who graduated high school who are unemployed or underemployed. You know what I think? Maybe we invest in jobs and education for those kids, not jails and incarceration.”

One of the debate moderators, Errol Louis, told Sanders: “You’ve said that by the end of your first term as president, the U.S. will no longer lead the world in mass incarceration. To fulfill that promise, you’d have to release roughly half a million prisoners. How are you going to do that, since the vast majority of American prisoners are not under federal jurisdiction?”

“We’re going to work with state governments all over this country,” Sanders responded. “And you know what? In a very divided Congress, and a very divided politics in America, actually the one area where there is some common ground is conservatives understand that it’s insane to be spending $80 billion a year locking up 2.2 million people.

“With federal and presidential leadership, we will work with state governments to make sure that people are released from jail under strong supervision, that they get the kind of job training and education they need so they can return to their communities. On this one, Errol, actually I think you’re going to see progressive and conservative support. We can do it, if we’re prepared to be bold.”

— Written by Susan Jones