Cory Booker Finds Co-Sponsor For Bill To Federally Legalize Pot

By Paul Gaita 12/28/17

The proposed bill aims to reschedule marijuana and enact widespread changes in criminal charges involving the drug. 

Senator Cory Booker

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker's long-gestating marijuana bill, which seeks to legalize cannabis at the federal level, among other initiatives, has gained the support of a fellow U.S. senator who also backs marijuana law reform.

On December 18, Booker appeared on Facebook Live to announce that Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) would become the first U.S. senator to officially co-sponsor the Marijuana Justice Act. Wyden, who has also proposed legislation to reform marijuana policies, said that the bill stands in sharp contrast to the approach favored by the Trump Administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which he described as "socially unjust, economically backward and against the will of the American people."

Booker initially proposed the Marijuana Justice Act in August; the bill seeks to not only remove marijuana as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, but to also enact widespread changes in criminal charges involving marijuana—including the automatic dismissal of federal use and possession crimes, and offering federal incentives for reforming marijuana laws. 

The bill also outlined a community reinvestment fund that would provide assistance to areas that had been negatively impacted by current marijuana laws, including job training, services for those arrested or convicted on marijuana charges, and an array of programs including youth and health education programs.

In the Facebook Live video, Booker praised Wyden for joining the effort to pass the Marijuana Justice Act. "It's long past due that we fix our nation's deeply broken drug laws, which disproportionately impact low-income communities and communities of color. This is more than a bill—it's about ensuring equal justice for all, and I won't stop fighting until our criminal justice system is reformed."

Several months before Booker proposed his marijuana reform bill, Wyden and Congressman Earl Blumenauer introduced the Path to Marijuana Reform Bill, which included provisions to repeal the tax penalty that bars marijuana businesses from claiming deductions and tax credits, to remove federal criminal penalties and civil asset forfeiture for individuals and businesses, and to impose a federal excise tax on marijuana products similar to that imposed on alcohol and tobacco. 

Upon signing as co-sponsor of the Marijuana Justice Act, Wyden said, "It's more important now than ever to update outdated policies, right the wrongs against communities of color, and continue our work to lift up the voices of the many Americans who are speaking out in favor of legalization."

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.