Five senators who are running for president in the 2020 race are supporting what advocates praise as the most sweeping marijuana legalization measure ever considered by Congress.
“The failed War on Drugs has really been a war on people—disproportionately criminalizing poor people, people of color & people with mental illness. I’m reintroducing the #MarijuanaJustice Act to begin reversing our failed federal drug policies.”
—Sen. Cory Booker
The Marijuana Justice Act, initially put forth two years ago, was reintroduced on Thursday by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.). It is consponsored by Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who are all seeking the Democratic nomination for president.
Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden (Ore.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), and Jeff Merkley (Ore.)—who is weighing a 2020 bid—are also backing the bill. Spearheading the companion legislation in the House are two Democrats from California: Ro Khanna and Barbara Lee, co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.
Booker’s bill would remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances and legalize it across the United States. However, several other provisions have generated excitement among drug policy experts and advocates for criminal justice reform.
The legislation would also expunge the criminal records of people with use and possession convictions, allow those who are currently incarcerated for marijuana-related crimes to petition for resentencing, and invest in community re-entry and job training programs.
Noting that black people are far more likely than their white peers to be arrested for marijuana possession in the United States, despite using it at similar rates, Booker pointed out in a Facebook post on Thursday that “a marijuana conviction is often a life sentence—people can’t get jobs or many business licenses, and they can’t get food assistance like SNAP or public housing if it’s a felony.”
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