This week, Bernie Sanders took his campaign to Puerto Rico, preparing for the Democratic primary there on June 5.
During a speech in San Juan, Sanders promised the debt-plagued island he would be an ally if he's elected president. The Vermont senator even said he'd support Puerto Rican independence if that's what the people wanted.
During his speech, Senator Sanders stated,
The people of the United States cannot continue a colonial-like relationship with the people of Puerto Rico.
It's worth noting that while Puerto Rico is a US territory and holds presidential primary elections, its people cannot vote in the general election because it's not a state, even though Puerto Ricans are US citizens. The same is true in other US territories, including the US Virgin Islands, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, which also don't enjoy full voting rights.
It's refreshing to hear a presidential candidate and US senator discuss America's neglect of Puerto Rico so frankly.
Correspondingly, while in San Juan, Sanders also offered some of his thoughts on the issue of marijuana legalization, a topic that he has a unique perspective on compared to other candidates.
For those of you who don't know a single word of Spanish, the Vermont senator just said he would legalize marijuana if elected president.
Bernie Sanders is the only candidate in the entire 2016 election who has signified support for the legalization of pot. His Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, has said she wants to liberalize America's marijuana laws, and see the drug reclassified from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2. But she will not support the legalization of recreational weed.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, is against legalizing recreational pot (although, as he's been with many other issues, Trump's statements on this topic have been very vague).
Marijuana legalization is hardly the most pressing issue in the US at the moment, but it is linked to a number of extremely important topics, including mass incarceration and the war on drugs.
Back in October, Sanders stated,
In the United States we have 2.2 million people in jail today, more than any other country. And we're spending about $80 billion a year to lock people up. We need major changes in our criminal justice system – including changes in drug laws. Too many Americans have seen their lives destroyed because they have criminal records as a result of marijuana use. That's wrong. That has got to change.
Indeed, the US has five percent of the global population, but possesses 25 percent of all the world's prisoners. Far too many are imprisoned for non-violent drug-related offenses.
Legalizing marijuana wouldn't end mass incarceration in the US, but it would arguably be a positive step forward in terms of ending the war on drugs and working toward reducing the population of nonviolent offenders in US prisons.