This Monday, senior Democratic Senator Ron Wyden announced that he was joining Senator Cory Booker in co-sponsoring the Marijuana Justice Act, a new bill that would legalize marijuana federally and punish states that continue enforcing cannabis prohibition laws. "The Marijuana Justice Act seeks to reverse decades of failed drug policy that has disproportionately impacted low-income individuals and people of color," a representative from Senator Booker's office explained, as reported by NBC affiliate KOBI-TV.
The bill would take a number of steps to update the country's antiquated cannabis laws. The legislation would remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances, effectively legalizing the drug at a federal level. Since individual states would be allowed to continue cannabis prohibition on their own, the bill would allow the government to withhold funds from states that disproportionately arrest or incarcerate low-income or minority individuals for cannabis offenses.
The Marijuana Justice Act would also create a community reinvestment fund to support communities that have been hit hardest by the War on Drugs. The funds would be allocated to job training and reentry services; libraries, youth, and community centers; health education; and financial assistance for individuals seeking expungement of cannabis convictions. The bill would also immediately expunge any federal cannabis use and possession convictions, and allow anyone currently imprisoned for these offenses to petition for resentencing.
The two Senators announced their support of the bill during a Facebook live event held on Monday. "Jeff Sessions and the Trump administration are still trying to fight a 1980s drug war that is socially unjust, economically backward, and against the will of the American people," Senator 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 "It's more important now than ever to update outdated policies, right the wrongs against communities of color, and continue our work to lift up the voices of the many Americans who are speaking out in favor of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."
"I'm thrilled that my colleague, Senator Wyden, has joined me on this groundbreaking bill," Senator Booker said at the event. "It's long past due that we reform our nation's deeply broken drug laws, which disproportionately harm low-income communities and communities of color. This is more than a marijuana reform bill — it's about ensuring equal justice for all, and we won't stop fighting until we fix our broken criminal justice system."
Both Senators are also sponsoring several other bills to advance cannabis reform. Booker re-introduced the bipartisan CARERS Act earlier this year, which would make the temporary protections established by the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment permanent, preventing the Department of Justice from interfering with state-legal medical cannabis. Wyden introduced the Path to Marijuana Reform in March, a package of three bills which include provisions to deschedule, tax, and regulate cannabis on a federal level. This package also includes the Small Business Tax Equity Act, which would allow canna-businesses to have the same access to banking institutions that other businesses have.