Did you hear about the Marijuana Justice Act? New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker introduced legislation in the beginning of August that would remove cannabis (marijuana) from the list of controlled substances, making it legal under federal law, and the bill has steps for penalizing states with racially-disparate arrest or incarceration rates for cannabis-related crimes. This bill goes the additional step of not just legalizing cannabis going forward but also to help low-income and minority communities “recover from the unjust application of the law,” stated Sen. Booker.
Who is affected by this bill?
Every state in the United States.
Under Booker’s proposal, states that choose not to legalize cannabis would lose federal criminal justice funding if their enforcement has a disproportionate effect on poor and minority individuals. An American Civil Liberties Union report found that blacks are nearly four times as likely to be arrested for cannabis possession as whites are, even though the groups use marijuana at the same rate.
“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,” Booker stated on his Facebook when introducing the legislation.
Highlights in the Bill
- Cut federal funding for state law enforcement and prison construction if a state disproportionately arrests and/or incarcerates low-income individuals and/or people of color for marijuana offenses
- Allow entities to sue states that disproportionately arrest and/or incarcerate low-income individuals and/or people of color for marijuana offenses
- Prevent deportations of individuals for marijuana offenses
- Provide for a process of expungement for marijuana offenses at the federal level
- Provide for a process of resentencing for marijuana offenses at the federal level
- Create a “Community Reinvestment Fund” of $500 million to invest in communities most impacted by the war on drugs, for programs such as job training, reentry, community centers, and more. Part of the funding will come from the aforementioned cuts to state law enforcement and prison construction.
When are we seeing this passed?
That remains to be determined. At this moment, there is no bi-partisan support of this bill, and considering the bill is facing a Republican Congress, chances are pretty slim.
To learn more, watch this video Sen. Booker posted on his Facebook announcing his support for this legislation.
I don’t think this bill will pass with current federal leadership in place, but the silver lining in this situation is the rhetoric involved in drafting this bill is crucial to maintaining when discussing the conversation of cannabis legislation. The facts and numbers are available online to prove that communities of color and low-income communities have been targeted unfairly by the War on Drugs, and it is time the federal government owned up to it.
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