- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg proposed federally decriminalizing marijuana possession as part of a criminal justice reform plan his campaign released Tuesday.

The former New York City mayor stopped short of seeking to fully legalize marijuana, however, separating himself from most other presidential hopefuls and a majority of Americans.

“Mike believes that further scientific study is required to assess the health effects of marijuana. In the meantime, he believes that no one should go to jail for smoking or possessing it,” the Bloomberg campaign said in a 13-page policy brief.

“Mike supports decriminalizing possession of small amounts nationally and would commute all remaining sentences and expunge sentences from criminal records,” the campaign said. “He also believes that for the moment this is an issue best left to the states, taking public health and safety into account.”

Marijuana is prohibited under federal law, although most states have legalized its use for medicinal or recreational purposes.

Several other candidates competing for the Democratic nomination have proposed legalizing marijuana at the federal level if elected president, with Mr. Bloomberg and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden being the only top-tier 2020 contenders to support decriminalizing possession rather than outright ending prohibition.

Despite pursuing a less drastic policy than his fellow candidates, Mr. Bloomberg’s proposal to decriminalize marijuana possession marks a total reversal compared to his previous stance.

“I do not think that decriminalizing marijuana is a good idea,” Mr. Bloomberg said in 2002.

More recently, Mr. Bloomberg said last year that legalizing marijuana “is perhaps the stupidest thing anybody has ever done.”

Thirty-three states have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana, including 11 that permit adults to use pot for recreational purposes.

Two-thirds of Americans say the use of marijuana should be legal, meanwhile, according to the results of a Pew Research Center survey released in November.

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