Senator Cory Booker Introduces Bill to End Federal Cannabis Prohibition
The legislation is the furthest-reaching legalization effort to date, with benefits for states that welcome legalization and sanctions on ones with continued racist policing.
Published on August 2, 2017

U.S. Senator and rumored 2020 presidential candidate Cory Booker rolled out a piece of legislation yesterday that would, if passed, finally end federal cannabis prohibition. It would also set up a number of incentives for states to embrace marijuana, and end the policing tactics of the war on drugs.

Booker introduced the Marijuana Justice Act in a Facebook Live video in which he addressed his constituents directly, discussing legalization as a form of racial justice desperately needed in an era particularly ripe with political fear-mongering and highly visible racially motivated narcotics policing.

“You see these marijuana arrests happening so much in our country, targeting certain communities — poor communities, minority communities — targeting people with an illness,” Booker said.

Under the Marijuana Justice Act, states that continue to arrest minorities for cannabis crimes at disproportionate rates would be punished by the federal government, with money for jails, prisons and other projects withheld. 

“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 former Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, said.

For those that have been persecuted for carrying or smoking a medicinally beneficial plant, Booker’s plan would expunge all federal marijuana possession and consumption convictions, and allow those currently serving time behind bars for those crimes a sentencing hearing and opportunity to regain their freedom. 

“Descheduling marijuana and applying that change retroactively to people currently serving time for marijuana offenses is a necessary step in correcting this unjust system.” Booker said. “States have so far led the way in reforming our criminal justice system and it’s about time the federal government catches up and begins to assert leadership.”

As you likely already know, the federal government is, at the moment, controlled exclusively by Republicans, with a president at the top who takes notes from reefer madness buy-in Jeff Sessions, who has already shown he has no problem signing away the lives of Americans on a whim. But while the Marijuana Justice Act may will likely not pass, that doesn’t mean cannabis advocates around the country aren’t encouraged by the national attention in the face of the current administration. 

“This is the single most far-reaching marijuana bill that’s ever been filed in either chamber of Congress,” Tom Angell, chairman of the group Marijuana Majority, said in a statement. "More than just getting the federal government out of the way so that states can legalize without [Drug Enforcement Administration] harassment, this new proposal goes even further by actually punishing states that have bad marijuana laws. Polls increasingly show growing majority voter support for legalization, so this is something that more senators should be signing onto right away."

Despite most Republicans unwilling to distance themselve’s from Trump’s madness, early rumors from D.C. have put Booker on the short list to help oust Donald in 2020. If Booker does have plans to run for the Oval Office in three years, he could help bring an end to federal cannabis prohibition sooner than most would have ever predicted.

Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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