Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders spent the majority of last week campaigning in Southern California ahead of the state’s June 7 primary in a last ditch effort to regain political momentum before the party’s National Convention in July.
Besides addressing the plight of inner-city minorities in Los Angeles and poor migrant farm workers in the San Joaquin Valley, one other state issue Sanders has uniformly touched upon in speeches from San Diego to Santa Monica and San Bernardino is the legalization of recreational marijuana.
The Adult Use of Marijuana Act will likely be on California ballots in November after petitioners collected nearly double the necessary 365,880 signatures — a proposal that would allow adults 21 years of age and older to purchase as much as an ounce of the drug and grow up to six plants in a private residence.
Sanders has long been an advocate of allowing states to make their own drug laws, and has especially supported taking marijuana off the federal Controlled Substances list.
“It makes sense to legalize marijuana at this particular point,” Sanders said at a rally in East Los Angeles. “So if I were in your state, I would vote ‘Yes’ on that issue.”
Critics of the legalization effort say that Sanders is merely pandering to Southern California voters. A poll from the Public Policy Institute of California publicized on Wednesday found that 60 percent of state residents support legalizing marijuana for recreational use, while only 37 percent oppose.
“(Sanders is) doing some good old political pandering,” commented Scott Chipman, chairman of Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana’s Southern California chapter. “He doesn’t care about California’s public health and safety.”
Chipman’s organization was formed in 2010 ahead of a recreational marijuana ballot initiative that surprisingly failed. California was the first state to legalize marijuana for medicinal use in 1996.
While Sanders has stood on the front lines for the issue in California, which would be the fifth state in the union to fully legalize the drug’s use, Hillary Clinton has largely ducked the question.
At an October 2015 debate in Las Vegas, Clinton said, “We have the opportunity through the states that are pursuing recreational marijuana to find out a lot more than we know today.”
Besides making platitudinal statements on the issue, Clinton has only else said she supports more scientific research of marijuana’s effects.
The Adult Use of Marijuana Act must first be approved by state officials before formally being placed on California’s general election ballot. All legal drug sales would be subject to a 15 percent transaction tax if the proposition is passed in November.
[Los Angeles Times] [The Hill] [Photo courtesy thesmokersclub.com]