Bernie Sanders' promise to legalize weed if he gets elected is likely to earn him many fans, but conservative pundits are using his support for cannabis reform against him.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson attacked Sanders' legalization plans last week, using racist stigmas against cannabis users to scare voters away from the Democratic candidate. Carlson's attack was a response to Sanders' recent comments during the South Carolina Democratic debate. At this debate, Sanders criticized the “horrific” and ineffective War on Drugs for locking up disproportionately large numbers of minorities for minor, non-violent weed offenses.
“Oh, the War on Drugs!” Carlson said on air, Mediaite reports. “Bernie Sanders talks about that in every speech he gives. A declining country with a sad underemployed middle class obviously needs to smoke a ton more weed. That’s Bernie’s solution… Fire up a bowl. Numb out. Maybe you won’t notice.”
At the rally, Sanders also outlined his plans to promote social equity in the cannabis industry. Following in the footsteps of Massachusetts and other states that have built social equity programs into their adult-use laws, Sanders has proposed a program that would help encourage minority-owned businesses to participate in the legal weed industry.
Carlson also mocked these claims, preying upon conservative America's fears of minorities’ support for Sanders' progressive policies. “So where is this weed going to come from?” he asked. “Bernie has a plan for that, too. Black people are going to sell it to you.”
Carlson's strategy plays into decades of racist propaganda associating cannabis use with minorities and criminals. Of course, in reality, numerous polls and studies have found that cannabis use is actually most prevalent among white people. A recent Gallup poll found that 14 percent of white respondents smoked weed, compared to 9 percent of minorities.
This prohibitionist rhetoric should come as no surprise to anyone who's been following the news. Last year, Carlson invited Alex Berenson, author of the largely-debunked anti-legalization book Tell Your Children, to join him in a confused and illogical attempt to blame mass shootings on weed.
But even though Fox News and its hosts continue their own personal war against weed, the news outlet has been forced to acknowledge that the majority of Americans do not agree with their views. In 2018, a Fox News poll found that 59 percent of all respondents were in favor of federal adult-use legalization, and another Fox poll from last year saw that number grow to 63 percent.