Bill To End War On Drugs Introduced In The House

By Keri Blakinger 01/22/18

The bill is the House's version of Senator Cory Booker's Marijuana Justice Act. 

Senator Cory Booker
Senator Cory Booker Photo via YouTube

A federal bill aimed at sparking changes to marijuana laws was introduced in the House last week. 

A House version of Sen. Cory Booker’s “Marijuana Justice Act of 2017” introduced last August, the new bill would remove cannabis from the illegal and restricted drug schedule, according to Forbes

"This legislation will end this destructive War on Drugs,” co-sponsor Rep. Barbara Lee said in a conference call on Wednesday, according to Currently, pot is in the same restrictive federal category as drugs like heroin and LSD, which makes it illegal nationwide. Although some states have adopted more lenient laws, the substance is still technically banned on a federal level—though the new legislation could change that, leaving states to decide pot policy on their own. 

The legislation would also help ease the burden of decades of harsh drug policy on those convicted of marijuana offenses in the past by creating a path to expungement for low-level possession charges. 

"Our country's drug laws are badly broken and need to be fixed," Booker said last year, after the New Jersey senator introduced his version of the bill. "They don't make our communities any safer—instead they divert critical resources from fighting violent crimes, tear families apart, unfairly impact low-income communities and communities of color, and waste billions in taxpayer dollars each year."

The new bill also includes funding for reinvestment in communities most impacted by existing anti-pot policies, money that co-sponsor Rep. Ro Khanna said would be covered by revenue from legalized pot taxes. The California politician also touted the measure’s possible positive impact on the economy. 

"It's estimated that legal cannabis in the U.S. would create $40 billion in revenue and nearly a million jobs," he said. "But it's about more than that $40 billion —it's about equality, and getting rid of the legal past that is stifling individuals' opportunity and their future."

The Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group that helped pen the measure, offered its support for the green-friendly would-be law. 

“Across the country, marijuana enforcement has been devastating to communities of color, primarily because of racially-biased policing and the numerous collateral consequences that result from a marijuana arrest or conviction," said New York state policy director Kassandra Frederique. 

"This bill makes clear to state and local elected officials that they cannot move forward beyond prohibition without taking a serious look at the historical and ongoing impacts of drug war policies.”

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.