Currently recreational cannabis is legal only in 11 of the 50 US states,causing disparity between state and the federal laws which govern the entire country.
In federal law, cannabis is listed as a category one drug alongside heroin and MDMA under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
Individual states, however, can make their own state laws or adapt certain parts of federal legislation.
Colorado, California and Nevada are among the states to have done so to enable the legalisation of cannabis.
Similar inter-state differences are seen around abortion laws. Alabama, for example, has removed abortion from its state healthcare plans and restricted abortions to mothers likely to suffer physical harm in labour.
Sanders – a long-time advocate for legalisation – aims to use special presidential power called an executive order to legalise cannabis federally.
Executive orders are written instructions which allow presidents to enact legal changes quickly without the approval of congress.
Ranking cannabis as a category one drug, the same as heroin, means that it is judged equally in states which have not enacted individual legislation and therefore possession of either drugs carries similar penalties.
On the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, Sanders described this situation as “insane” because of the clear disparity in the dangers of the drug.
He added: “You can argue the plusses and minuses of marijuana, but marijuana ain’t heroin. So we have to end that and that’s what I will do as President of the United States. I believe we can do that through executive order and I will do that.”
Such legislation could help improve the consistency and quality of cannabis products in states where recreational cannabis is legal.
A recent Californian study has shown that potentially dangerous pesticides are consistently being used on hemp farms because of a lack of federal law.
Sanders has consistently backed the legislation of cannabis and the expunging of criminal records related to cannabis possession, resulting in his A+ rating from drugs lobby group, NORML.
He was the only major presidential candidate to back legalisation following his proposed senate bill The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2015 which attempted to change the CSA.
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