Cory Booker: The Marijuana Justice Act

US capital Cory Booker

The Marijuana Justice Act, introduced in the U.S. Senate by Democratic New Jersey Senator, Cory Booker on August 2017 seeks to finally strike down the federal prohibition of marijuana across the land. He’s got good company. Nationally, more than 60 percent of the American public supports the legalization of weed. This number is up from a meager 31 percent in 2000. Among 18-34-year-old people, the number is nearly 80 percent.

While the introduction of the bill was widely celebrated by pot enthusiasts, it was quickly denounced by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) as a huge mistake. The bill would amend the Controlled Substances Act and remove marijuana from the list of Schedule-1 drugs alongside the likes of cocaine, LSD, and heroin. The law would be retroactive which means those federal prisoners who have been locked up for marijuana crimes have a chance to appeal their incarceration.

Additionally, states that are found to disproportionally arrest and contain minorities would stand to lose federal funding that supports the building of more jails. More importantly, the bill would repeal the ban on marijuana. One of the greatest indicators of the bill’s fate may rest upon the level of bipartisan support Cory Booker can ensnare. The measure would prevail over state’s rights and compel them to seek federal resolution of the issue. The war on drugs was a problem created by the federal government. Perhaps the most sinister aspect of the justice system was the escalated mandatory minimums that were administered in an unequal and lopsided manner.

Should Pot be Legalized?

Many in opposition to the bill believe that states should be able to legislate their own marijuana policies although it might conflict with their own ideals. A poll last year by CBS found that 70 percent of Republicans think states should decide the legality of pot.

The legislation would motivate states to legalize marijuana to avoid federal penalties that would be levied as a result of dissimilar convictions of poor and minority communities. Any funds that are withheld from states who won’t tow the line would be used for community grants to reinvest in the communities that have been ravaged by the war on drugs. Investments would enhance job training, libraries, youth programming, neighborhood community centers and health education programs.

Cory Booker says that for decades the war on drugs has been a major failure by locking up nonviolent drug offenders; particularly for weed related crimes. It has had a deleterious impact on human potential, loss of tax dollars, families ripped apart and communities feeling besieged.

Individuals Could Have a Clean Record

The bill would also create a way for expunging the record of individuals charged and convicted of a marijuana crime. The Drug Policy Alliance suggests that while African Americans comprise 14 percent of the American population, they make up nearly 40 percent of those arrested for marijuana offenses. There are more police arrests for marijuana than for violent crimes according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The measure proposed by Cory Booker would represent the widest sweeping marijuana bill ever introduced in Congress. For instance, it moves the federal government out of the way by eradicating the nuisance of DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) raids. It would even punish states that pass useless marijuana laws.

Most will tell you that the bill has no chance of being passed in a Republican held Congress. However, it represents a sign that progress is being made on the issue of nationally legalized weed. The issue is evolving and becoming overwhelmingly embraced by more Americans. As an indication of this evolution, Booker himself was opposed to marijuana legalization as recently as 2015 when he refused to support making pot legal. He did, however, support medical marijuana and relaxing certain federal restrictions.

Cory Booker believes that by de-scheduling marijuana as a Schedule-1 drug and requests that those convicted of weed related crimes have their cases retroactively reviewed is a necessary steps in healing the wounds caused by harsh judgments from the criminal justice system.

States, where marijuana has been legalized, are experiencing a decrease in violent crimes, according to Booker. He asserts that they also see an increase in badly needed revenue. Further, he contends that those states can focus their police efforts on more serious criminal activity.

Most Important Components of the Proposed Bill:

  1. Slash federal funding state-level law enforcement and the constructions of prisons if the state is found to be engaging in discriminatory practices concerning arrests and incarcerations in the poor and communities of color for breaking the marijuana law.
  2. Make it possible to sue states that are found to engage said discriminatory practices in those communities.
  3. Curtail deportations for marijuana crimes.
  4. Create a way to expunge records containing marijuana transgressions at the federal level.
  5. Design a method of resentencing for marijuana offenses at the federal level
  6. Establish federal funding sources for impacted communities through Community reinvestment dollars in the tune of $500 million.

A felony weed conviction results in tens of thousands dollars in collateral damage to individuals when they are constrained from securing loans for college and higher education, inability to acquire housing, food assistance or even a business license. Cory Booker’s bill attempts to address the harm that the prohibition of marijuana has caused.

The End to Marijuana Prohibition

US capital Cory Booker
Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0
According to Senator Cory Booker, it’s not a question of whether the nation will repeal prohibition, but when it will be repealed. He called attention to the fact that medical research by hospitals and universities would begin in earnest; finally revealing the true impacts that marijuana produces. Currently, there is lack of real research and scholarship being applied to this issue; and the mountains of red tape faced by these institutions would also cease to present a hurdle.

It will literally open the floodgates for business leaders and investors that can potentially discover more effective strains to bring to the marketplace. It would lead to a level of standardization that will put more pressure on those who market marijuana to back up their claims of potency.

Recently, Attorney General Jeff Sessions continues to indicate that he’d like to move the Department of Justice towards a harsher treatment of drug crimes. A few months ago, Sessions announced a re-evaluation of the department’s position on pot. He has directed federal prosecutors to throw the book at those convicted of a drug offender.

In July, a congressional committee rejected Sessions request for a national crackdown. He requested that members of the U.S. Senate abstain from the federal protections given to states under President Obama in 2014. The Senate Appropriations Committee declined a request by the Attorney General to alleviate provisions that protect states from federal government meddling over marijuana laws.

Balancing State and Federal Marijuana Laws

There appears to be a more functional aspect of the measure as well. In the states where marijuana is legal, it becomes impossible to balance state law with federal law. This is one of the most vexing issues confronting the marijuana industry today. For example, recreational marijuana retailers are denied the right to use banking services. Some, like Sessions, insist that catering to the pot industry is a liability for banks. As a result, marijuana businesses are locked out of loans having to pay their staffs in cash. This allows them to avoid paying the taxes that are touted so frequently in the marijuana debate.

Because weed operations cannot keep their money in the bank, they are forced to keep massive amounts of cash both in their homes and in the store. It essentially serves as bullseye on the backs of dispensary owners from both criminals and law enforcement officials alike. The Booker measure would address this issue.

A recent poll by Quinnipiac found that 95 percent of the American people support medical marijuana and just over sixty percent are in favor of striking down prohibition altogether.

Article By: Alfonzo Porter