When Bernie Sanders called for national cannabis legalization in 2015, he was the first major party presidential candidate in history to do so.
That was exactly one election cycle ago, but it feels like an eternity—particularly when you consider that today 66% of Americans back this once-radical policy position, as does every Democratic 2020 presidential candidate this side of Joe Biden and Mike Bloomberg.
Sanders has long been out in front of the cannabis curve. But in late 2019, is he still at the forefront of the issue?
Let’s start with a little history
In 1968, four years after graduating from the University of Chicago, the Brooklyn-born Sanders moved to Vermont as part of a pronounced back-to-the-land counterculture migration. Still speaking with the thick Brooklyn accent of his youth, he left the big city behind and embraced rural life in a small New England town. He also hung around at hippie communes, demonstrated against the Vietnam War, ran in some heavy socialist circles and wrote articles for the local alternative newspaper.
'I smoked marijuana but was never part of the drug culture. That wasn’t me.' Bernie Sanders, on how he spent the sixties
Sanders clearly experienced the era’s legendary cannabis scene firsthand—though only through osmosis. While the budding young politician was no doubt in a lot of smoky back rooms, he didn’t often get high.
“My hair was long, but not long for the times,” he told New York magazine in 2014. “I smoked marijuana but was never part of the drug culture. That wasn’t me.”