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The Senator and Democratic Contender said, “On my first day in office, through executive order, we will legalize marijuana in every state in this country.”
Marijuana legalization hasn’t proved much of a differentiator among the Democratic presidential candidates vying in today’s Iowa caucuses. With a couple of exceptions, the leading contenders would all roll back the federal prohibitions that keep multistate operators like Curaleaf Holdings (ticker: CURA.Canada), Green Thumb Industries (GTII.Canada) and Trulieve Cannabis (TRUL.Canada) from U.S. stock listings—even though they sell pot only where it is legal under state law.
On Saturday, Sen. Bernie Sanders sought to stand out. At a Cedar Rapids rally, he vowed: “On my first day in office, through executive order, we will legalize marijuana in every state in this country.”
Good as that may sound for U.S. pot producers, he reserved a jab for these growing businesses. After promising to expunge the criminal records of those arrested for pot possession, Sanders promised to give industry control to minority communities that disproportionately suffered arrests and incarceration in the war on drugs.
“We will make certain that the legalized marijuana industry is not controlled by a handful of corporations,” said Sanders.
Marijuana’s criminal status under the federal Controlled Substances Act can only be changed by Congress, of course, but members of a Sanders cabinet would get the process rolling. The U.S. also has commitments under international treaties to treat cannabis commerce as illegal.
It is state law that spawned American cannabis companies, No president can directly force faster changes on the states that have yet to legalize medical or recreational sales of the stuff.
Despite these limitations, a federal pot overhaul would greatly ease the lives of multistate operators. Federal financial prohibitions have kept the federally-regulated banking and securities industries from doing business with firms like Curaleaf, Acreage Holdings (ACRG-Y.Canada) or Harvest Health & Recreation (HARV.Canada). That forced the U.S. outfits to Canada for their stock offerings.
Sanders’ latest pledge may not prove much of a distinction from his rivals in Iowa. Every leading Democrat promises to legalize weed, except Biden—who says he would decriminalize it—and Bloomberg—who would let states decide.
Some Democrats wouldn’t stop their changes to drug regulation with marijuana. Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer would decriminalize opioids. Yang would legalize psilocybin mushrooms for veterans. Pete Buttigieg would decriminalize possession of all drugs.