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Bernie Sanders urges California to legalize

Bernie Sanders Backs Legalization in California

Marijuana legalization just picked up a major supporter.

Bernie Sanders California 2016Long-shot presidential candidate Bernie Sanders spoke in the Bay Area in May and said he was 100 percent behind the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. That measure is the leading contender to legalize the drug in November. The AUMA has already been cleared to appear on the ballot.

Sanders endorsed the proposed law during a rally in San Jose, according to the Sacramento Bee. That makes him the highest-profile national political leader to offer direct support for the AUMA.

“I do not live in California,” he told his voters during the speech. “But if I lived in California, I would vote ‘yes’ to legalize marijuana.”

Sanders has already outlined plans to do away with the prohibition of cannabis at the federal level and has offered backing to legalization bids in other states. But this was his first public endorsement of reform in the nation’s largest state – and the most lucrative marketplace for marijuana.

 “But if I lived in California, I would vote ‘yes’ to legalize marijuana.”

Sanders didn’t specifically say he was endorsing the AUMA, but it’s the only initiative to have cleared the statewide ballot and it is likely to remain the only one. In an earlier interview, the Los Angeles Times quoted Sanders as saying, “You’ve got a pretty good ballot initiative coming up in November.”

Hillary Clinton, Sander’s opponent and the front-runner in the Democratic primaries, has also said she wants to reform federal cannabis law, but hasn’t yet gone so far as to support full legalization to the same degree Sanders has.

Public support for legalization is high in California – 60 percent – though it’s less clear how many voters actually plan to pull the lever for the AUMA. It’s the highest level of backing pollsters have found since they started asking the question decades ago.

AUMA likely to pass

Marijuana Sales in California could dropIf the AUMA passes, it would allow all adults in California to buy, possess, and use up to one ounce of marijuana at a time. It would also levy a sales tax and create a legal, regulated industry to grow, process, ship, and sell the drug.

Medical cannabis has been legal since 1996, but the system was famously lawless until Gov. Jerry Brown signed tight new regulations in October to bring the industry in line. Those rules were also intended to pave the way for oversight of a new recreational industry.

The California legalization push is spearheaded by tech billionaire Sean Parker, creator of Napster and early president of Facebook. He has contributed $500,000 of the $2.25 million total raised by AUMA advocates so far. Opposition groups have raised only a fraction of that amount.

Several high-profile figures and groups have endorsed the AUMA measure, including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the California branch of the NAACP, and now Bernie Sanders. As the names continue to grow, so does the speed of marijuana reform.

Tell us: Why do you think it took so long for major presidential candidates to come out in favor of marijuana legalization? Comment below.

About Matt Brooks

Based in San Francisco, Matt is a journalist who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than five years. He provides regular news coverage on and

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