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Does Bernie Sanders Want to Ban Cigarettes?

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Bernie Sanders has gone much further than any major presidential candidate in history in articulating the abysmal failure of marijuana prohibition. He is the only such serious contender for the Oval Office ever to say that he would not only respect states that legalize cannabis but would personally vote for an end to marijuana prohibition if it were on the ballot where he lives.

The U.S. senator from Vermont has also described drugs in general as “a health issue, not a criminal issue” and said, “Locking up addicts is not going to solve the problem.”

But on Sunday, Sanders seemed to single out one drug product that he would consider prohibiting: cigarettes.

“There is almost the question as to why it remains a legal product in this country,” Sanders said in an interview with Chuck Todd of NBC’s Meet the Press.

The two were discussing Sanders’s disagreement with Democratic rival Hillary Clinton over special taxes on sodas. Clinton supports the measures, while Sanders doesn’t.

After Sanders said that a version of the tax which has been proposed in Philadelphia as a way to raise money for universal pre-kindergarten is “regressive” and puts the burden “on the backs of low income and working people,” Todd asked if that line of thinking also applied to excise taxes on cigarettes.

CHUCK TODD: So you must be against cigarette taxes, too, then?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: No, I’m not. Cigarette taxes are — there’s a difference between cigarettes and soda. I am aware of the obesity problem in this country.

CHUCK TODD: I don’t think Michael Bloomberg would agree with you on that one?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, that’s fine. He can have a point of view. But cigarettes are causing cancer, obviously, and a dozen other diseases. And, you know, there is almost the question as to why it remains a legal product in this country.

Time was running short, so Todd didn’t follow up and instead ended the interview with a question about supporting Clinton in the general election if she is the Democratic nominee.

But if Sanders were to in fact call for the criminalization of cigarettes, that would make him the only major candidate in this presidential election to do so, and would seem to stand in stark contrast to his broader position on drug policy issues.

To find out what else Bernie Sanders and other presidential contenders have said about cannabis legalization and drug policy, check out Marijuana.com’s comprehensive guide to the candidates.

Photo Courtesy of isaravut.

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