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Bernie Sanders Spotlights Student Marijuana Essays

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U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders took time away from the campaign trail on Wednesday to highlight the voices of young people who say marijuana should be legalized.

The Vermont independent, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, entered the essays of five students from his state into the Congressional Record. Two of the pieces argue that it’s time to change marijuana laws.

Mikayla Clarke, a senior at Bellows Falls Union High School, pointed to the economic benefits of legalization. “By legalizing marijuana, many more job opportunities would open and a whole new industry is created,” she wrote. “The amount that the whole country would make would be in the billions.”

Megan Bromley, a senior at Milton Senior High School, argued that ending the war on marijuana can free up jail space and police time, which would allow the criminal justice system to put more focus on stopping and solving sexual assault. “We are pouring millions of dollars into our state and federal prison systems and too much of that is going towards people for up to twenty years for marijuana possession,” she wrote. “However I propose to use the funding instead to evaluate something such as unprocessed rape kits and begin to treat minor drug use in a proactive manner. Marijuana possession should be removed as a state and federal crime and result in no jail time.”

The pieces are finalists in Sanders’s sixth annual State of the Union Essay Contest. The essays by the three winners and 17 finalists are available on Sanders’s Senate website. In all, nearly 800 entires from 39 high schools were received.

A third finalist in the contest also argued for marijuana law reform, but her essay hasn’t yet been entered into the Congressional Record. “While people often say marijuana is a gateway drug, I strongly disagree,” wrote Alexis Manchester, a junior at Green Mountain Technology and Career Center. “There are more people that drink a glass a milk per day and become addicted to more serious drugs, than those who use marijuana.”

In a press release announcing the winners, Sanders said, “As is always the case, I am so impressed by the wide range of issues students wrote about this year, and by the quality of the essays. While there is no shortage of obstacles facing the United States, it is heartening to see so many young Vermonters thinking about the direction we need to go as a nation.”

Sanders himself believes that states should be able to legalize marijuana without federal interference and has sponsored legislation to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act. He also said that he would personally vote to legalize marijuana if it were on the ballot.

To find out what else Sanders and other presidential contenders have said about cannabis law reform, check out Marijuana.com’s comprehensive candidate tracker.

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