On Tuesday, July 31, 2017, Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) introduced legislation that calls for the legalization of marijuana.
“For decades, the failed War on Drugs has locked up millions of nonviolent drug offenders–especially for marijuana-related offenses–at an incredible cost of lost human potential, torn apart families and community, and taxpayer dollars,” Booker posted on Facebook. “Today I’m introducing the Marijuana Justice Act, a bill that if passed will legalize marijuana at the federal level and go even further in an effort to remedy many of the failures of the War on Drugs. This is the right thing to do for public safety, and will help reduce our overflowing prison population.”
If passed, this legislation would amend the Controlled Substance Act to eliminate marijuana’s status as a Schedule 1 drug. This end of marijuana prohibition would decriminalize it on a federal level. Similar legislation was proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) two years ago, but Booker’s goes further by proposing a withholding of some criminal funding from states that have not yet legalized marijuana if data shows there is a racially disproportionate arrest or incarceration rate. This one area impacts every state, even those where marijuana is not currently legal.
With Booker’s proposed legislation, states would benefit from legalizing marijuana because fewer penalties would apply to them. Any funds kept from states would be put toward a “Community Reinvestment Fund” that would reportedly also receive a separate $500 million in appropriations annual. This fund would be used to set up a grant program to reinvest in communities most affected by drugs. It would also cover criminal re-entry assistance, public libraries, community centers, youth programs, health education and job-training programs.
This legislation would create a new process for removing federal marijuana convictions and resentence people who are currently serving time for violating federal marijuana laws.
According to Tom Angell, a member of Marijuana Majority, said in a press release that Booker’s proposed legislation is the most “far-reaching marijuana bill that’s ever been filed in either chamber of congress” and that “this proposal goes even further by actually punishing states that have bad marijuana laws.”
In speaking of the proposed legislation, Booker stated that, “states have so far led the way in reforming our criminal justice system and it’s about time the federal government catches up and begins to assert leadership.”
Booker’s legislation faces and up hill battle in Congress and the Trump administration has signaled that it will be taking a tougher stance on marijuana than Obama’s administration did.
Here is a video of Sen. Booker speaking about the Marijuana Justice Act: