Bernie Sanders: Marijuana isn't heroin

Bernie Sanders: Marijuana isn't heroin
© Greg Nash

Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersKlobuchar on 2020: ‘I do think you want voices from the Midwest’ Dem pollster says it's 'misstated wisdom' to assume competitive primaries damage presidential nominees Group launches campaign to 'Draft Beto' for 2020 White House bid MORE (I-Vt.) doubled down on his opposition to enforcing federal marijuana laws on Thursday, noting that the substance is less dangerous than heroin and that states should move toward decriminalizing it.

Sanders called on Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsPresidential historian: Trump's actions may be 'definition of treason' if he knew about Russian interference efforts Trump admin seeks to roll back Obama-era policy on school discipline: report Trump: Sessions 'should be ashamed of himself' for allowing Russia probe to proceed MORE to reverse an expected decision to roll back an Obama-era policy giving states leeway to legalize recreational marijuana use.

"Marijuana is not the same as heroin. No one who has seriously studied the issue believes that marijuana should be classified as a Schedule 1 drug beside killer drugs like heroin," Sanders said in a statement.

"Quite the contrary. We should allow states the right to move toward the decriminalization of marijuana, not reverse the progress that has been made in recent years," he added.

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Sanders's statement comes after reports that Sessions plans to rescind the so-called Cole memo, written by then-Deputy Attorney General James Cole under former President Obama, which directed federal prosecutors to deprioritize marijuana-related offenses in states that have legalized recreational use of the substance.

The move by Sessions threatens the movement to legalize recreational marijuana use in several states, including, most recently, California, which began allowing recreational use on Monday.

So far, six states have approved marijuana for recreational use, and dozens allow marijuana for medical use. The substance, however, remains federally prohibited and is classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance.

The Cole memo discouraged U.S. attorneys from prosecuting marijuana-related cases in states that have legalized the substance, paving the way for such laws to be implemented.