Cory Booker Introduces Bill To End Pot Prohibition

By Kelly Burch 08/04/17

The Marijuana Justice Act is an ambitious legislation that aims to right the wrongs of the failed drug war and end prison overpopulation.

Cory Booker

Cory Booker, the Democratic Senator from New Jersey, has introduced the Marijuana Justice Act, legislation that would remove marijuana from federal scheduling system, making it legal nationally, and address the damage caused to communities by the War on Drugs. 

“This is the right thing to do for public safety, and will help reduce our overflowing prison population,” Booker wrote as an introduction to a Facebook Live video where he announced the bill. 

Although Booker’s bill is a long shot, particularly under the Trump administration that has been unreceptive to relaxing marijuana policies, he says that the time is right to introduce the bill. 

“You see what’s happening around this country right now. Eights states and the District of Columbia have moved to legalize marijuana. And these states are seeing decreases in violent crime in their states," Booker said in the video. "They’re seeing increases in revenue to their states. They’re seeing their police forces being able to focus on serious crime. They’re seeing positive things come out of that experience.”

Booker's proposed legislation isn't just to make marijuana legal federally. It would also allow people accused of federal marijuana offenses to have their records cleared or to have their sentences adjusted. It would stop deportations based on marijuana offenses and cut funding for policing and prisons in states that disproportionately arrest minorities and low-income people for marijuana violations, according to Forbes

Booker said that the changes are much-needed, particularly in communities of color that have been most impacted by the aggressive tactics of the War on Drugs. 

“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 communities, and taxpayer dollars,” he said. “The effects of the drug war have had a disproportionately devastating impact on Americans of color and the poor.”

Marijuana advocates praised the measure. 

“This is the single most far-reaching marijuana bill that’s ever been filed in either chamber of Congress,” Tom Angell, head of the pro-legalization Marijuana Majority, said according to Time. “More than just getting the federal government out of the way so that states can legalize without DEA harassment, this new proposal goes even further by actually punishing states that have bad marijuana laws.”

Although the administration is resistant to changes to policy, Angell says the public is ready for this step. 

"Polls increasingly show growing majority voter support for legalization," he said. "So this is something that more senators should be signing onto right away."

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.