Presidential hopeful brings weed legalization bill to the Senate floor

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Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) is not a senator to shy away from controversy. Or rumors that he’s a leading Democratic contender for the 2020 election. Or that fact that it’s time to decriminalize marijuana on a national level.

In a live Facebook video on Aug. 1, Booker announced a comprehensive bill –the Marijuana Justice Act of 2017–to reform cannabis legislation, saying…

“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.

Today I’m introducing the Marijuana Justice Act, a bill that if passed will legalize marijuana at the federal level and go even further in an effort to remedy many of the failures of the War on Drugs. This is the right thing to do for public safety, and will help reduce our overflowing prison population.”

The Bill is a five-part plan that has, at its core, a social justice platform that would address racial disparities in marijuana-related crimes. Here’s what it includes…

1. Removing marijuana from the US Controlled Substances Act; ending the federal criminalization of cannabis. 

2. Incentivizing states to mitigate existing and ongoing racial disparities in state-level marijuana arrests.

3. Expunging federal convictions specific to marijuana use and possession.

4. Allowing individuals currently serving time in federal prison for marijuana-related violations to petition the court for re-sentencing.

5. Creating a community reinvestment fund to invest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs.

“Not only is it imperative we end our failed experiment of marijuana prohibition, we must also ensure justice for those who suffered most under these draconian policies,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri, “We applaud Senator Booker for introducing this robust legislation that would not only remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, but provide a path forward for the individuals and communities that were most disproportionately targeted by our nation’s failed war on marijuana consumers.”

Will it pass? Probably not, since there are still many concerns about cannabis use and policy nation-wide. Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced a bill in 2015 to reschedule marijuana, but it got no support from other senators.

According to a 2017 Quinnipiac University poll, 59 percent of Americans support full marijuana legalization and 71 percent believe that states, not the federal government, should set marijuana policy. Thirty states, Washington, DC along with the US territories of Guam and Puerto Rico, have already enacted legislation specific to the physician-authorized use of cannabis. An estimated 63 million Americans now live in jurisdictions where anyone over the age of 21 may possess cannabis legally. Voters overwhelmingly support these policy changes.

These policies have not negatively impacted workplace safety, crime rates, traffic safety, or youth use patterns. They have also stimulated economic development and created hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue. A 2017 report estimates that 123,000 Americans are now working full-time in the cannabis industry. Tax revenues from states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington now exceed initial projections. Numerous studies have also identified an association between cannabis access and lower rates of opioid use, abuse, hospitalizations, and mortality.