Earlier this morning, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Marijuana Justice Act, a bill that, if passed, will legalize marijuana at the federal level. While the bill basically faces a zero percent chance of getting through Congress anytime soon since most members are publicly opposed to legalization. But the bill does represent a shock to the system and how some federal lawmakers view marijuana decriminalization.
Similar to a piece of legislation introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) back in 2015, Booker's bill would remove marijuana from the federal scheduling system, the list of controlled substances that acts as the basis for federal criminalization laws. More importantly, it would also retroactively expunge the criminal records of those who have been convicted for use or possession of marijuana, create incentives for states to change laws, and create community reinvestment funds for communities that have been disproportionately impacted.
Currently, the District of Columbia andeight states (including Colorado, Washington, Massachusetts, California, Oregon, Alaska, Nevada, and Maine) have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Per Booker, all eight states have seen a decrease in the number of violent crimes committed and have seen an increase in revenue due to legalization. Colorado alone has reigned in nearly half a billion dollars in taxes and fees related to the legalization.
The bill also carries important social ramifications for Booker, and falls in to his greater effort around racial justice. "We have a justice system that treats you better if you are rich and guilty than poor and innocent," Booker said in a livestream announcing the bill. Those who live in poor communities or communities of color are disproportionately targeted with arrest rates higher than their richer counterparts. Many are charged with nonviolent drug use while lawmakers and legislators in our nation have spoke openly about using drugs.
According to the ACLU, there were 8 million arrests for drug use between 2001 and 2010, with 88 percent of these arrests for marijuana possession.
"We need to make sure that we are not only making it legal on the federal level, not only moving states to do the same," Booker said during the livestream. "But to start targeting on not only ending the racial disparities and incarceration and targeting of poor people, but trying to do restorative justice."
Check to see if yours if one of the dozen-plus states the Marijuana Policy Project has its eye on for legalization, and make your voice heard about the Marijuana Justice Act.