On Wednesday, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey introduced the most comprehensive marijuana legislation in American history.
The bill, titled “The Marijuana Justice Act,” seeks to legalize marijuana on a federal level across the United States.
Booker cites the War on Drugs, which has disproportionately targeted and imprisoned people of color and the poor, as the catalyst behind the bill.
The New Jersey senator seeks to rectify these wrongs.
Booker wrote in a Facebook post about his legislation and 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. The effects of the drug war have had a disproportionately devastating impact on Americans of color and the poor.”
In his post, Booker also wrote about the “overflowing prison population,” another aspect of the War on Drugs that has damaged vulnerable populations and communities.
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) August 2, 2017
Queen Adesuyi, Policy Associate at the Drug Policy Alliance, the “nation’s leading organization promoting drug policies that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights,” said of Booker’s legislation:
“This bill is the most ambitious marijuana bill we have seen in Congress. Uniquely, it recognizes the fact that people of color have borne the brunt of the failed war on drugs and seeks to repair the damage done. We applaud Senator Booker for his leadership on this issue.”
In an official statement, Booker outlined the specific goals his legislation aims to accomplish:
· Remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances, making it legal at the federal level;
· Incentivize states through federal funds to change their marijuana laws if marijuana in the state is illegal and the state disproportionately arrests or incarcerates low-income individuals and people of color for marijuana-related offenses;
· Automatically expunge federal marijuana use and possession crimes;
· Allow an individual currently serving time in federal prison for marijuana use or possession crimes to petition a court for a resentencing;
· Create a community reinvestment fund to reinvest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs and allow those funds to be invested.
While prison reform and cannabis activists are excited about Booker’s ambition, others are not so convinced.
Kevin Sabet of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a group against marijuana legalization, told the Washington Post that Booker should concentrate on solving the opiate epidemic,
Given the opioid epidemic, [Booker’s] legislative energy would be much better spent implementing solutions to that crisis. But the Big Marijuana lobbyists are probably very happy.”
It would appear that Sabet is not clued into the myriad studies that suggest marijuana can treat opioid addiction.
As the Democratic base is pulled further and further to the left in wake of the Trump administration, many voters are looking for a truly progressive candidate that will offer things like universal healthcare, comprehensive prison reform, and humanist social policies.
While I’m not very optimistic of this bill actually passing Congress (I doubt Booker is either) it’s clearly a political move by Booker to position himself as an ideal option for progressives.
Maybe Booker is just trying to prepare for a presidential run in 2020, but it’s still refreshing to see actual progressive drug policy introduced at the federal level.
Here’s hoping to more of this from Booker.