Drug Policy

Sanders Issued A Proclamation In Support Of The War On Substance Abuse.
“PROCLAMATION: WHEREAS, substance abuse has grown to an enormous degree in our
society, threatening the quality of life and structure of families throughout the nation; and
WHEREAS, the national war against substance abuse must be fought on many levels and on
many fronts; and WHEREAS, a successful counter-attack on drugs will require the active support
of all of the citizens of our cities; and WHEREAS, the United States Conference of Mayors has
declared Tuesday, November 18, 1986 Mayor’s D-Day in the War on Drugs and has called upon
all mayors to join that day in a national mobilization that will raise all citizens'awareness [sic] of
the threat posed by legal and illegal substance abuse. NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED
that I, Bernard Sanders, Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, proclaim Tuesday, November 18, 1986
MAYOR’S D-DAY IN THE WAR ON SUBSTANCE ABUSE in Burlington and call upon all citizens
of our city to participate in our goal of a city without substance abuse. [Signed] Bernard Sanders,
Mayor” [Proclamation, Office of the Mayor, Bernard Sanders, 11/18/86]
Sanders Supported “Undo[ing] Some Of The Structures Of This War On Drugs,” Including
Incarceration Of Nonviolent Drug Offenders. “I think we want to be aggressive in going after
those heavy duty drug dealers who are trying to poison children but we have jails all across this
country which are filled with non violent drug users who need treatment and not jail cells. So I
think there is a growing sentiment which I strongly support to undo some of the structures of this
war on drugs which has caused just enormous amount of human suffering and huge expenditures
of dollars.” [Brunch With Bernie, 5/1/15]
Sanders Said That Incarcerating People For Nonviolent Offenses Was “Destroying A Lot Of
Lives.” “The Vermont State legislature, and they’re certainly not alone, just recently passed
legislation, as I understand it, would decriminalize possession of a small amount of marijuana.
And I think you’re going to see that trend increasing all ofer the country. I think your point is right,
that we are spending a lot of money and destroying a lot of lives by putting people who have not
been involved in violent crime behind bars. So I think we have to rethink in a very significant way
the entire war on drugs.” [Brunch With Bernie, 5/17/13, 25:00]
Sanders: “Clearly The Trend Is To Decriminalize” When It Came To Marijuana, But Didn’t
Indicate His Own Position On The Issue. “I think what you’re seeing is a significant evolution
on this issue, Colorado has legalized marijuana, there is a lot of debate in my state and states all
over the country to move in that direction. I think people are trying to ascertain what is going on in
Colorado, how well it is working, what problems may be arising. But I would say Floyd, like in
many other issues, things don’t happen overnight, but clearly the trend is to decriminalize. I think
you’re seeing more and more states decriminalizing marijuana, people who have small amounts
of it. And that is the direction that it is moving. And you have on the other hand law enforcement
folks who worry about marijuana leading to cocaine, leading to heroin which is a very serious
problem and that’s kind of where the debate is right now. But there’s no question that I think the
trend is toward a liberal direction in terms of marijuana.” [Brunch With Bernie, 2/6/15]
Sanders Wanted To See Effects Of Legalization And Decriminalization Laws In States
Before Making A “Final Opinion” On Marijuana Policy. “Colorado, some other states, are
looking at, have looked at, have legalized it. In Vermont we de-criminalized it. I want to take a
look at how that is going before I make a final opinion.” [Sanders Katie Couric Interview, Yahoo,
Sanders Said He Wanted To Learn More About Legalization Of Marijuana Before Deciding
His Opinion On A National Level. “On Saturday, as he traveled to a campaign rally at the
University of Denver, Sanders said he wanted to learn more about Colorado’s legalization of
recreational pot before he talks about what he wants to see happen at the national level. “It’s

something that we are going to look at,” he said. “In fact, I do want to talk to some people tonight
and tomorrow to get a sense of what is going on in Colorado. We will be talking about this issue.””
[Denver Post, 6/23/15]
Sanders Said Arresting Marijuana Users Was Not A High Priority As Mayor And That He
Will Observe Colorado To Determine Whether Marijuana Should Be Nationally Legalized.
“Question: Where do you stand on a nationwide legalization of marijuana? Sanders: [During my
time as mayor], I don’t recall that too many of the [university students] were being arrested; it
wasn’t an issue that we felt was of the highest priority of arresting kids who were smoking
marijuana. I’m also on board legislation, have co-sponsored legislation, dealing with medical
marijuana. I think Colorado was the first state in the country to legalize marijuana. I want to take a
good look of the pluses and minuses of that, and we can go from there.” [WMUR-TV Interview
with Senator Bernie Sanders, 03/20/2015, 23:50]
Sanders Supported Vermont’s Decriminalization Of Possession Of Small Amounts Of
Marijuana, As Well As Medical Marijuana. “Let me just say this -- the state of Vermont voted to
decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana and I support that. I have supported
the use of medical marijuana. And when I was mayor of Burlington, in a city with a large
population, I can tell you very few people were arrested for smoking marijuana. Our police had
more important things to do. Colorado has led the effort toward legalizing marijuana and I'm going
to watch very closely to see the pluses and minuses of what they have done. I will have more to
say about this issue within the coming months.” [Reddit, 5/19/15]

Headline: Bernie Sanders hints at support for legalized pot [The Hill, 5/19/15]

Sanders: “I Smoked Marijuana Twice. Didn’t Quite Work for Me.” “‘I smoked marijuana twice.
Didn’t quite work for me,’ the Vermont Independent senator told Couric. ‘I coughed a lot,’ he said.
‘It’s not my thing, but it is the thing for a whole lot of people.’” [Politico, 6/01/15]
Bernie Sanders Said He Supported Legalizing Marijuana, Replied “Yes” When
Asked If He Had Ever Used It. “It was amazing how many people had heard the
morning radio show and had liked what I said. This radio show was interesting in that a
man had called in and asked; ‘Did I hear Mr. Sanders say that he was for the legalization
of marijuana?’ The commentator said; ‘Yes, he said that.’ The man said; ‘Could I ask Mr.
Sanders if he has ever smoked marijuana?’ Strangely enough, despite all the times that I
had talked about the need for legalizing marijuana, that was the first time that question
was ever directly asked of me. I said, ‘Yes, I have smoked marijuana.’ And that was the
end of that.” [Seven Days Vermont, 12/1/72]
Sanders Said He Would Wait to See Effect of States’ Marijuana Legalization Laws Before
Taking Stance. “When asked about his stance on the legalization of marijuana, Sanders was
similarly cautious. He said he did not yet know whether he would support full legalization as
Colorado and Washington state now have, some form of decriminalization as was passed in
Vermont, or another measure, and will instead wait to see the results of the states’ new laws
before deciding.” [Politico, 6/01/15]
Sanders Said the War On Drugs Was Not Successful. “[Sanders] did, however, take a stand
against the War on Drugs, which he said has ‘not been successful.’ ‘We have far far far too many
people in jail for non-violent crimes,’ said Sanders.” [Politico, 6/01/15]
Sanders: If You Wanted To Argue That Marijuana Was Less Harmful Than Tobacco, “You’d
Probably Be Making A Correct Argument.” “And if you want to make the argument that maybe
marijuana is less harmful to health than tobacco, I think you’d probably be making a correct
argument. Some may disagree, but I think that’s probably true.” [Sanders Katie Couric Interview,
Yahoo, 6/1/15]

Sanders: “We Didn’t Arrest That Many People For Marijuana” While I Was The Mayor Of
Burlington. “When I was mayor of the city of Burlington, which has a large University, and one or
two of the kids were smoking marijuana we suspect, we didn’t arrest that many people for
marijuana.” [Sanders Katie Couric Interview, Yahoo, 6/1/15]
Sanders said, “It Would Be Hard For Me To Argue That Marijuana Is A Worse Product Than
Tobacco.” “Caller: Senator, do you support the repeal of marijuana prohibition? Sanders: Let me
tell you this, when I was mayor of Burlington, and we have a university town here, and I don’t
think anybody got arrested for smoking marijuana, and I think what Colorado is doing is
interesting. I’m not a great fan of drugs, I got to say that, on the other hand, it would be hard for
me to argue with you that marijuana is worse product than tobacco. So I think let’s see what
Colorado does and go from there.” [Brunch with Bernie, 9/26/14]
Sanders Supported “Undo[ing] Some Of The Structures Of This War On Drugs,” Including
Incarceration Of Nonviolent Drug Offenders. “I think we want to be aggressive in going after
those heavy duty drug dealers who are trying to poison children but we have jails all across this
country which are filled with non violent drug users who need treatment and not jail cells. So I
think there is a growing sentiment which I strongly support to undo some of the structures of this
war on drugs which has caused just enormous amount of human suffering and huge expenditures
of dollars.” [Brunch With Bernie, 5/1/15]
Sanders Proposed Enforcing Punishment For Drug Trafficking And Abuse. “The second bill
in the Progressive Promise is The Equal Justice Before the Law Act, which is an anticrime
package that retains key aspects of the anticrime legislation enacted in 1994 to prevent crime as
well as punish that which happens; to crack down on white-collar crime—for example, S&L
bailout, defrauding Federal Government on procurement, criminal penalties for willful violation of
child labor laws by employers that result in serious bodily injury or death of minors in the
workplace, eliminate deductibility of legal expenses when a company is accused of a crime—and
on drug trafficking and abuse.” [Rep. Bernard Sanders, Congressional Record, 1/26/95]
1990: Bernie Sanders Said The Legalization Of Drugs Would “Doom An Entire Generation
Of Young People.” “After Sandoval announced Monday that she favors legalizing drugs such as
marijuana, cocaine and heroin, spokesmen for Smith and Sanders conveyed their respective
candidates’ responses: A Smith staffer said the congressman opposes drug legalization and
instead favors better drug education and treatment and improving the nation’s schools and job
opportunities. A Sanders’ staffer read a similar statement prepared by the candidate, in which
Sanders said legalization would ‘doom an entire generation of young people.’” [Burlington Free
Press, 7/12/90]
1990: Bernie Sanders: “Making Drugs Cheaper And Available Will Doom An Entire
Generation Of Young People, Often Low-Income And Minority, To A Sedated Life On
Society’s Perimeter.” “On Monday, the day after the papers said she had 1.3 percent of
the vote, she held a press conference calling for the legalization of drugs. […] Soon
after the press conference, reporters called to get Bernie’s response. He dictated a short
statement which I read. ‘I agree with many people, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson,
who believe that making drugs cheaper and available will doom an entire generation of
young people, often low-income and minority, to a sedated life on society’s perimeter.’”
[Steven Rosenfeld, “Making History in Vermont: the Election of a socialist to Congress,”
1992, P.111]
1990: Bernie Sanders’ Democratic Opponent Charged That Bernie Sanders’
Portrayal Of The Drug Crisis Was “Racist.” “Democratic congressional candidate
Dolores Sandoval on Wednesday lashed out at the two front-runners in Vermont’s U.S.
House race, saying their responses to her call to legalize drugs were ‘racist.’ ‘I don’t think
that they’re racist, but they have just taken in the racist image that has been portrayed in
the media,’ Sandoval said, referring to Rep. Peter Smith, R-Vt., and Independent

congressional candidate Bernard Sanders. […] Holding up a copy
of Wednesday’s Burlington Free Press, she pointed to headlines on an article about a
Colchester man pleading guilty to drug charges and a report of a Brattleboro man
charged with growing marijuana, saying, ‘The organized criminal drug element is alive
and well right here in the whitest state of the nation.’” [Burlington Free Press, 7/12/90]
1986: Sanders Decried “Ineffective” Use Of State Funds To Prosecute Marijuana Users And
Supported An Individual’s Right To Engage In Any Activity In The Privacy Of Home. “The
Burlington mayor also said that he believes it is ‘an ineffective’ use of state funds to prosecute
marijuana users and that in general he supports an individual’s right to engage in any activity in
the privacy of his own home as long as it does not endanger… [CUT OFF].” [Rutland Daily
Herald, 8/20/86]
1972: Bernie Sanders Advocated The Legalization Of Marijuana. “In response to a number of
students’ questions, Sanders advocated: […] --The legalization of marijuana.” [Bennington
Banner, 10/25/72]
1971: The Liberty Union Party’s Platform Called For “The Abolition Of Compulsory
Education” And The “Legalization Of… The Use Of Marijuana.” “Among other Liberty Union
platform items are the abolition of compulsory education and the funding of alternative education;
legalization of abortions and the use of marijuana; withdrawal of military forces from all foreign
countries and the end of support for overseas dictatorships distribution of foreign aid through
international agencies.” [Vermont Freeman, “Early November,” 1971]
1971: Bernie Sanders Ran On A Platform Calling For The Legalization Of All Drugs.
“Freedom: ‘The government spies on its citizens, ignores civil liberties guaranteed by the
Constitution, and imposes penalties for crimes which have no victim.’ Sanders said he would seek
an end to abortion laws, legalize all drugs, eliminate restrictions on birth control, and end all
discrimination based on sex, race or anything else.” [Bennington Banner, 12/11/71]
1971: Bernie Sanders Advocated The Legalization Of Heroin. “About drugs, Sanders asked,
‘What does it say about this country when two kids in New York City die every day from an
overdose of heroin? Everybody knows it’s a killer; the government tries to stop its use by making
it illegal, and yet people keep taking it. They’re committing suicide, and they know it. What does
that say about a young person’s will to live, about the value of human potential? If heroin were
legal, at least we’d know the dimensions of the problem, and be able to deal with it rationally.’”
[Bennington Banner, 12/11/71]

Punishing Illegal Behavior
Sanders Said It was Not Acceptable For Young People To Be Criminalized For Smoking
Marijuana, While The CEOs Of Banks Whose Illegal Behavior Destroyed The Economy Are
Not. “After years of shrugging off criminal prosecutions for Wall Street activity that fueled the
2008 financial crisis, the Department of Justice said Thursday that it will more aggressively target
white-collar crime going forward. In a memo, the DOJ said it would now seek to hold both
corporations and individual employees accountable for misdeeds. It's about time, according to
Sanders. "One of the biggest mistakes our government made after the financial crisis was not
prosecuting the people responsible for the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior that crashed
our economy and ruined the lives of millions of Americans," the socialist senator from Vermont
told HuffPost in a written statement. "It is not acceptable that many young people have criminal

records for smoking marijuana, while the CEOs of banks whose illegal behavior helped destroy
our economy do not."” [Huffington Post, 9/10/15]

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