Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) just introduced a far reaching cannabis legalization bill that would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substance Act and encourage individual states to legalize it. The Marijuana Justice Act is also an equal rights and a civil rights bill. It would level the playing field for the disproportionate number of people of color and low-income residents who have been incarcerated for possession of cannabis. Some have spent decades behind bars for simple possession. Funding would be cut for those institutions who incarcerate minorities and the underprivileged for cannabis. Despite the fact that equal numbers of whites and people of color (POC) use cannabis, POC are nearly 4 times as likely as whites to be imprisoned for its use. Cannabis would finally be federally legalized. The DEA, a federal agency, would no longer be involved, of course. Each state would set its own policies.
The bill would penalize states that demonstrate racially disproportionate arrests or incarceration rates by reducing state federal funding. That would mean reducing prison construction and other law enforcement funding. Funds withheld from states proven to be discriminatory would go toward a federal “Community Reinvestment Fund” of $500 million. It would be used to “establish a grant program to reinvest in communities most affected by the War on Drugs.” It would cover job-training programs, criminal re-entry assistance, public libraries and community centers, youth programs, and health education.
It would prevent deportations for cannabis offenses. It would also allow those convicted of federal cannabis-related crimes to petition the court for resentencing. The bill further empowers those in discriminatory states who are convicted at a state level to sue that state in federal court. Their records may be expunged which would be a game changer for many people. It is much more difficult to find work and rent an apartment with a federal conviction on your record. It would stop the ridiculous, useless and extremely costly “War on Drugs” at a time when the US AG Jeff Sessions is trying to breathe new life into it at further taxpayer’s expense. Over the decades, the “War on Drugs” has cost American taxpayers $1 Trillion dollars. Even staunch anti-drug advocates admit that it has been a total failure. Not only that, it has destroyed communities, torn apart families, and kept millions of non-violent drug offenders incarcerated for decades. Such a waste of human potential!
We have the largest prison population in the world in some of the most inhumane conditions. With over 2.3 million people in American prisons, 20% have been convicted of drug offenses. This would be a start to alleviating some of the overcrowding in prisons, not to mention giving these people their lives back.
Tom Angell, founder of Marijuana Majority, is thrilled and is throwing its support behind the bill.
“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.”
“Polls increasingly show growing majority voter support for legalization, so this is something that more senators should be signing on to right away.”
Sadly, in a Republican held Congress, Booker’s bill has very little chance of passing, despite more than half of Americans favoring federal legalization. His intention is to move along the conversation between lawmakers and voters in hopes of arriving at federal legalization by 2020. The strong anti-cannabis lobby cites the opioid epidemic as a reason not to legalize marijuana. They believe legislative energy would be better spent on addressing the opioid crisis. Ironically, the epidemic is actually one of the strongest reasons to federally legalize cannabis. Hundreds of people have successfully weaned themselves off of addictive opioids with no adverse side effects. Opponents of legalization are not even aware that medical cannabis would be part of the solution to alleviating the opioids epidemic. Unfortunately, there is next to no media discussion about this. We must all make it our goal to raise awareness about medical cannabis!