White House hopeful Bernie Sanders has pledged to legalize marijuana within 100 days of taking office if he is elected president next year.

The Vermont senator declared that too many lives have been ruined due to the disastrous criminalization of marijuana and unveiled an ambitious plan to change the situation. He committed to legalizing recreational cannabis use at a federal level by taking executive action within 100 days of his administration if he wins the White House.

Sanders would also vacate and expunge all past marijuana-related convictions, while ensuring that revenue from the legal marijuana industry is reinvested in communities disproportionately affected by the so-called war on drugs.

The plan is to nominate an attorney general, HHS secretary and DEA administrator to “work aggressively” on legalization and expungements. He would issue an executive order to immediately declassify marijuana as a controlled substance.

Sanders declared he would not wait for Congress to act and promised legislation to ensure it’s legalized on a permanent basis.

On the subject of expunging past convictions, Sanders declared his ambition to roll the California model out across the country. It reviews past convictions and includes re-sentencing of anyone currently incarcerated, while federal funding would be provided to assist states and cities in this process.

A Sanders administration would also create a $20 billion grant program that provides funding to entrepreneurs of colour who want to get into the industry. A focus would be placed on businesses that are at least 51% owned or controlled by people living in areas hit the hardest marijuana convictions.

There would be a national system to certify organic marijuana.

Sanders is keen to ensure that the legal marijuana trade does not end up being structured like “Big Tobacco”. His plan is to incentivize businesses to be structured like nonprofits in the hope that this would create cooperatives that thrive in local communities.

Tobacco companies would be excluded, as would any businesses that have “created cancer-causing products or guilty of deceptive marketing” would be excluded from the legal marijuana trade.

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