Senator Cory Booker has put together a piece of legislation that is unlikely to be passed by congress, but is further carving the way towards more reasonable rules associated with cannabis. The bill would remove marijuana entirely from federal scheduling and also give states financial incentives to legalize marijuana.
In an effort to help people incarcerated for minor marijuana offenses get clemency, expunge minor marijuana crimes from records and to reduce the amount of arrests on minorities for possession of small amounts of marijuana, the bill attempts to subtract states and their residents from the war on drugs. If you were a member of congress would you vote for his bill?
A new bill in the Senate would not just end the federal prohibition of marijuana, but encourage states to legalize pot as well.
The bill, proposed by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) on Tuesday, would remove marijuana from the federal scheduling system, which is the basis for its federal criminalization. That isn’t new in the Senate; Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), for one, also put forward a bill that would deschedule marijuana back in 2015.
Where Booker’s bill goes further is it actively encourages states to legalize cannabis. Specifically, the bill leverages federal funds to incentivize legalization in states that have enforced laws against marijuana in a way that disproportionately impacts low-income people and people of color — a category that includes virtually every state. (A 2015 report from the Sentencing Project, for one, estimated that black Americans are 3.7 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as their white counterparts, but only 1.3 times as likely to use pot.)
The measure addresses the two layers of prohibition. Under current federal law, pot remains illegal even in states that have legalized — creating big barriers to states that have legalized, including restrictions on business tax deductions and access to banking. But whether marijuana is legal, decriminalized, or illegal at the state or local level is decided through state or local law — meaning that a city or state could conceivably keep marijuana illegal even if the federal government removes all its own restrictions.
“This is the single most far-reaching marijuana bill that’s ever been filed in either chamber of Congress,” Tom Angell, head of the pro-legalization Marijuana Majority, said in a statement. “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.”
The legislation would also be retroactive, so it would automatically expunge federal marijuana use and possession crimes from people’s records and let those currently serving time in prison for marijuana use or possession petition for resentencing. And it’d create “a community reinvestment fund” that Booker’s office said would go toward job training, reentry services, and community centers, among other programs.
Booker will formally roll out the bill on Facebook on Tuesday at 12:30 pm Eastern Time.