Cory Booker Is Trying to Make Pot Legal Across the Country
Reporting by Elena Sheppard.
It’s pretty safe to assume that New Jersey senator, Cory Booker, will, in the not-too-distant future, run for president. But this week, the former Mayor of Newark is making headlines for introducing what he’s calling the Marijuana Justice Act — a bill, which, if passed, would legalize marijuana across the country, expunge federal marijuana convictions (allowing those serving time for marijuana charges to have their cases reviewed by a judge), and punish states with, as the Washington Post puts it, “racially-disparate arrest or incarceration rates for marijuana-related crimes.” The bill also seeks to remove marijuana from the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, where it’s currently listed as a Schedule I drug right alongside heroin and LSD.
The bill is ambitious, progressive, and in a government that is currently mired in infighting about how to return to the ideals of the past, is a refreshing look toward the future.
Senator Booker introduced the bill via a 35-minute Facebook Live video in which he addressed “the so-called War on Drugs,” breaking down his beliefs on how damaging it has been, particularly for people of color, addicts, veterans, and low-income Americans. He argues that lawmakers use drugs—often without repercussion—yet it is young, poor, people of color who are far more frequently arrested. “I have seen children, young teenagers, getting arrested and saddled with criminal convictions for the rest of their lives, for doing things more minor in terms of drug use than two of our last three presidents admitted to doing,” Booker said.
While the bill is making a lot of noise and putting Booker’s convictions on display, the bill has almost no chance of passing in a Republican-controlled Congress which is so publicly anti-marijuana.
At present, eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana and Booker says, “They’re actually seeing positive things coming out of that experience. Now I believe the federal government should get out of the illegal marijuana business.” He went on to add that it “disturbs” him that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has indicated that the federal government may double down on marijuana laws, including enforcing them in states where the substance is already legal.
Booker’s bill has so far received support from the Drug Policy Alliance and the United Patients Group (which is a resource for medical marijuana) in addition to the expected marijuana advocacy groups. Another benefit of making marijuana legal would be the continued testing of the substance as it’s related to medical research, where it has already proved to be an important ingredient.
While the bill is a longshot, it’s these ambitious conversations that help move our country forward and Cory Booker certainly has a direction in mind.