New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker is introducing a comprehensive bill on Tuesday to deschedule marijuana, provide incentives for states to legalize, and create mechanisms to address racial justice concerns.
The federal prohibition of marijuana has had a “devastating impact” on the nation, Booker said, noting that enforcement has negatively and disproportionately affected minorities and people of lower incomes.
“These are charges that follow people for the rest of their lives,” Booker said on a Facebook Live video in which he announced the details of the Marijuana Justice Act legislation.
The bill’s provisions include:
- Removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act;
- Retroactively expunging federal marijuana use and possession crimes;
- Incentivizing states through federal funds to change their marijuana laws, if illegal;
- Withholding federal funds for prison construction or staffing in states that have disproportionate arrest rates for minority and low-income individuals arrested for marijuana offenses;
- Allowing individuals currently serving a term in federal prison for marijuana use or possession to petition a court for resentencing;
- Creating a reinvestment fund for communities most affected by the war on drugs with grants in areas such as job training, reentry services, expenses related to the expungement of convictions, public libraries, and health education programs, among others.
As of Tuesday morning, the bill did not have any co-sponsors, but Booker said he planned to drum up bipartisan support for the first-time legislation.
“I’m hoping that we work toward bipartisan support,” he said. “None of that’s possible, though, unless people are demanding it. We the people must make that demand and insist upon it.”
Marijuana advocates hailed the new legislation. Tom Angell, who heads the organization Marijuana Majority, called it “the single most far-reaching marijuana bill that’s ever been filed in either chamber of Congress.
“More than just getting the federal government out of the way so that states can legalize without DEA harassment, this new proposal goes even further by actually punishing states that have bad marijuana laws,” Angell said in a statement. “Polls increasingly show growing majority voter support for legalization, so this is something that more senators should be signing on to right away.”
Booker said the legislation went beyond the issue of descheduling marijuana and its removal from the Controlled Substances Act.
“We need to seek not just to change the law, but be agents of restorative justice,” Booker said.
Cannabist digital producer Aleta Labak contributed to this report.
READ: Marijuana Justice Act