In case you were too stoned to be paying attention yesterday, Bernie Sanders has introduced a bill that would end the federal prohibition on marijuana. I'm not sure if this is shrewd or risky or both. On one hand, it certainly bolsters his reputation as a daring innovator willing to take a stand. On the other hand, it probably means that lazy comedians/reporters will now start churning out hacky puns about a "fully baked plan" or jokes about Bernie being the candidate for stoners living in basements who are too addled to vote.
Despite the stereotype that this move only appeals to college kids, pretty much everyone benefits from legalized pot: less money wasted on a dumb drug war, more revenue collected from regulation, an end to useless incarceration that disproportionately affects minorities. Big thumbs-up to Bernie for taking the lead on this, and big frowny-face to Hillary for offering only useless political double-speak on the topic.
Under Bernie's proposal (which is really a copy of a proposal put forth in 2011 by Barney Frank and Ron Paul that went nowhere), pot would still be regulated by states, so Washington could stop worrying about feds harassing Uncle Ike's, and other crueler states could keep locking up poor people for getting high.
Obviously, this bill will probably go nowhere — it's just an attention-grab — but I'm glad to see that pot legalization may at least have a larger role in the presidential conversation. This is another example of why we need Bernie in the race: even if you don't think he has a chance at getting the nomination, he's still exerting pressure on Hillary to take a stand further to the left.
In fact, just yesterday Ohio voters defeated a measure that would have legalized marijuana. That bill was particularly poorly written, and would have established dubious pot monopolies. So even though Ohio voters said "no thank you," it's really a vindication of the state-by-state approach since it shows that states are an appropriate place to experiment with different legalization schemes.
Republican candidates will almost definitely latch onto Bernie's proposal and portray him as a shiftless drug pusher. Nearly all of those guys oppose legalization, even though just as with gay marriage they're out of step with the American public. No big surprise, but most Americans want pot legalized — 58% are in favor, according to Gallup.
I'm looking forward to all of the nonsense-rhetoric that this talk of legalization will prompt from the Republicans. They have a track record of telling insane lies about the harm of marijuana — Carly Fiorina even linked pot to the substance-abuse-related death of her step-daughter, which holy shit takes a lot of fucking nerve.
Hopefully, even if this bill goes nowhere, it'll prompt Ben Carson to say something insane that we can all have a good laugh about, and then groan when Donald Trump picks him as his running mate.
But please, late night comedy shows. Do not write jokes about all the lava lamps at Bernie Sanders headquarters. Do not photoshop Grateful Dead shirts on supporters at Sanders rallies. Resist the temptation to refer to the candidate's "blunt" rhetoric. No more "not just blowing smoke" jokes.
But if you wanted to hire Larry David to do an impression of a stoned Bernie Sanders, yeah, sure, go ahead and do that. I'd enjoy watching that, as long as I was super-duper baked myself.