The first Democratic debate for the 2016 presidential election happened Tuesday in Las Vegas, and while the subject of marijuana legalization wasn’t discussed by all five candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders made statements, with Sanders taking a bolder edge.
In this transcript provided by debate host CNN, here’s what Clinton and Sanders had to say about marijuana, with CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Juan Carlos Lopez making the queries:
COOPER: The issue now, particularly in this state, is recreational marijuana. I want to go to Juan Carlos Lopez.
LOPEZ: Thank you, Anderson.
Senator Sanders, right here in Nevada, there will be a measure to legalize recreational marijuana on the 2016 ballot. You’ve said you smoked marijuana twice; it didn’t quite work for you. If you were a Nevada resident, how would you vote?
SANDERS: I suspect I would vote yes.
And I would vote yes because I am seeing in this country too many lives being destroyed for non-violent offenses. We have a criminal justice system that lets CEOs on Wall Street walk away, and yet we are imprisoning or giving jail sentences to young people who are smoking marijuana. I think we have to think through this war on drugs…
SANDERS: …which has done an enormous amount of damage. We need to rethink our criminal justice system, we we’ve got a lot of work to do in that area.
LOPEZ: Secretary Clinton, you told Christiane Amanpour you didn’t smoke pot when you were young, and you’re not going to start now.
LOPEZ: When asked about legalizing recreational marijuana, you told her let’s wait and see how it plays out in Colorado and Washington. It’s been more than a year since you’ve said that. Are you ready to take a position tonight?
CLINTON: No. I think that we have the opportunity through the states that are pursuing recreational marijuana to find out a lot more than we know today. I do support the use of medical marijuana, and I think even there we need to do a lot more research so that we know exactly how we’re going to help people for whom medical marijuana provides relief.
So, I think we’re just at the beginning, but I agree completely with the idea that we have got to stop imprisoning people who use marijuana. Therefore, we need more states, cities, and the federal government to begin to address this so that we don’t have this terrible result that Senator Sanders was talking about where we have a huge population in our prisons for nonviolent, low-level offenses that are primarily due to marijuana.
CNBC Republican debate: Wednesday, Oct. 28, at the University of Colorado in Boulder
CBS News Democratic debate: Saturday, Nov. 14, at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa