Presented today, a new congressional bill aims to get government and cannabis on the same side of the law by ending a decades-long federal ban on the plant.
Introduced by New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, the ‘Marijuana Justice Act of 2017‘ seeks to end federal prohibition of cannabis and address the impacts that such prohibition continues to have on both government and individuals. In an announcement on Facebook Live, Booker said he believes the federal government “should get out of the illegal marijuana business,” and hopes to allow law enforcement to focus their time and spending on more serious matters.
“You see what’s happening around this country right now. Eights states and the District of Columbia have moved to legalize marijuana. And these states are seeing decreases in violent crime in their states,” Booker commented. “They’re seeing increases in revenue to their states. They’re seeing their police forces being able to focus on serious crime. They’re seeing positive things come out of that experience.”
In order to lift the federal ban on cannabis, Booker’s bill seeks to remove it from the group of drugs included in the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, where it is currently listed as a Schedule I drug alongside heroin and LSD. As the longtime drug-reform nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance explained in a release, the bill additionally seeks to:
- 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.
“These marijuana arrests are targeting poor and minority communities, [and] targeting our veterans. We see the injustice of it all,” Booker continued. “I have seen young teenagers getting arrested, saddled with criminal convictions for the rest of their lives.”