Bernie Sanders files bill to legalize marijuana

Luke Graham, special to CNBC
Bernie Sanders for legalizing marijuana
Bernie Sanders for legalizing marijuana

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has filed a bill in the Senate seeking to end the federal criminalization of marijuana.

The bill filed Wednesday, called "Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2015," would amend the Controlled Substances Act to remove mentions of the drug from the law.

The laws on cannabis differ between the states. So far, Colorado, Washington state, Alaska and Oregon have legalized the sale and possession of marijuana for medical and recreational use, while Washington, D.C., has legalized the personal use but not the sale of the drug.

On Tuesday, Ohio voters strongly rejected the legalization of marijuana.

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In an interview with CNN, Sanders explained the aim of the bill was for states to make the decision on marijuana without the federal government getting in the way. It would also help distributors who are allowed to sell marijuana in their state but cannot use banks, which would technically violate federal law. The move by the Vermont senator is likely to prove popular with his young, liberal fan base.

Legalizing marijuana can lead to increased revenue for individuals and state governments. Sales of the drug totaled $700 million in Colorado in the first year after it was legalized and is part of an economic recovery in the state.

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