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Cory Booker Introduces Marijuana Legalization Bill

By Kelly Burch 03/01/19

“We must also repair the damage caused by reinvesting in those communities that have been most harmed by the War on Drugs,” Booker said in a statement.

Cory Booker

Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced a bill on Thursday (Feb. 28) that would legalize marijuana at the federal level—an effort that immediately garnered widespread support from other prominent Democrats, including presidential hopefuls. 

The Marijuana Justice Act would remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances, and would expunge the records of people who have been charged for marijuana-related offenses. Booker previously introduced the bill in 2017 but it didn't gain much traction.

This year, however, the measure seems to have more support from the party, including Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Michael Bennet (D-CO), according to CNN

In addition to legalizing cannabis, Booker has been outspoken about correcting the racial disparities in how marijuana prohibition has been enforced. 

“It’s not enough to simply decriminalize marijuana. We must also repair the damage caused by reinvesting in those communities that have been most harmed by the War on Drugs,” he said in a statement, according to Rolling Stone. “And we must expunge the records of those who have served their time. The end we seek is not just legalization, it’s justice.”

He continued, "The War on Drugs has not been a war on drugs, it's been a war on people, and disproportionately people of color and low-income individuals. The Marijuana Justice Act seeks to reverse decades of this unfair, unjust, and failed policy by removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances and making it legal at the federal level.”

Democratic Representatives Ro Khanna and Barbara Lee, both of California, introduced a version of the bill in the House of Representatives. 

“Communities of color and low-income communities have been devastated by the War on Drugs,” Lee said in a statement released through NORML. “As Co-Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, I’m proud to sponsor legislation that would legalize marijuana at the federal level, address the disproportionate impact of prohibition on people of color by expunging criminal convictions, and promote equitable participation in the legal marijuana industry by investing in the communities hardest hit by the failed War on Drugs.”

According to NORML, the bill would remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances, but that would not automatically make cannabis legal in all states.

Instead, the bill would incentivize states to change their laws if current legislation and prohibition disproportionately affects minorities. It would automatically expunge the federal records of use and possession, and allow those in prison to petition for re-sentencing, while redirecting funds to job training and reentry programs. 

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

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