Sanders's plan, according to the Post, would remove marijuana from the federal government's drug schedules, much in the same way alcohol and tobacco are exempted today. This would not legalize marijuana nationwide, but it would allow states to legalize and regulate marijuana in the same way as alcohol and tobacco without worrying about federal interference. In legal terms, it means the federal government would no longer consider marijuana a dangerous drug worthy of strict regulation.
Although the Obama administration has largely remained out of the way of states like Colorado and Washington after they legalized cannabis, marijuana's status as a schedule 1 drug still makes it difficult for researchers to study marijuana and for pot businesses to, for example, use banking services and file for tax deductions available to other businesses. And since the Obama administration's actions are based on executive decisions, they could be overturned by, for instance, a Marco Rubio administration.
Sanders wants to entirely remove federal restrictions on pot, according to the Post. Other Democrats and some Republicans running for president support letting states legalize, but not removing pot from the schedules entirely.
But it's unlikely Sanders could get this done. Although a recent Gallup poll found 58 percent of Americans support legalization, most of Congress opposes the idea — and entirely removing marijuana from the schedules would likely require action from a Republican-controlled Congress. It could also place the US in violation of international treaties that require participants to prohibit certain drugs for nonmedical uses.
Still, Sanders's position is a first for the 2016 presidential candidates. He had already hinted at his support for legalization in the first Democratic debate, which led supporters of marijuana legalization to herald him as the friendliest major candidate to their cause. With this move, Sanders establishes that he's the real deal when it comes to marijuana.