Sen. Cory Booker — and a host of other Democratic senators vying for the White House — are re-introducing a bill Thursday to legalize marijuana at the federal level and expunge the criminal records of previous marijuana offenders.
Booker first introduced the Marijuana Justice Act in 2017, though the bill never even had a committee hearing. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Kirsten Gillibrand, all 2020 candidates, are co-sponsoring the legislation. Midwestern Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Sherrod Brown, who are positioning themselves as moderate alternatives in the 2020 race, notably abstained from signing on to the legislation.
Booker posted a tweet thread Thursday morning that called the war on drugs, which has locked up numerous marijuana drug offenders for years, a “war on people.”
“And it’s not enough to just legalize marijuana, we should help those with records for use and possession convictions, and allow people currently in prison for marijuana-related crimes to petition for resentencing, which is why my legislation includes expungement provisions,” Booker wrote.
The expungement proposed in the bill would apply to people who have already been convicted of marijuana offenses and are serving prison time. The bill also includes provisions that would establish reinvestment funds for communities hit particularly hard by the war on drugs. The funds would be used for job training, expenses related to expunging convictions, public libraries, community centers, and health education programs.
Ten states as well as Washington, D.C., have already legalized the use of recreational marijuana. In 2018, 21 states considered legislation or legal initiatives to legalize recreational marijuana. Two-thirds of Americans support the legalization of marijuana (an all-time high level of support), according to a recent Gallup poll.
The issue of marijuana legalization has become another divide in the 2020 pool of candidates, along with Medicare for All and a Green New Deal, which seeks to overhaul the U.S. economy by divesting from fossil fuels and investing in green jobs and infrastructure. House Democrats just introduced a new Medicare for All bill that speeds up the timeline for implementation and will cover more people and services than past versions of the bill.
Harris, Sanders, Warren, Booker, and Gillibrand have all embraced both concepts, at least partially, while Klobuchar and Brown have not. Klobuchar and Brown support “Medicare for More” legislation that lowers the eligibility age to 50 but doesn’t extend the program to everyone. The two senators also didn’t co-sponsor Booker’s legislation back in 2017.
Cover image: NORTH LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - FEBRUARY 24: U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) speaks at his 'Conversation with Cory' campaign event at the Nevada Partners Event Center on February 24, 2019 in North Las Vegas, Nevada. Booker is campaigning for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)