Bill To Legalize Marijuana And End Racial Disparity In Criminalization Now Pending in both Chambers of Congress
Today, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) along with Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Ro Khanna (D-CA), introduced The Marijuana Justice Act of 2019, to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and incentivize states to end the racially disparate criminalization of marijuana consumers.
NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said:
“The Marijuana Justice Act is the most comprehensive piece of federal legislation ever introduced to end the failed policy of marijuana prohibition and to address the egregious harms that this policy has wrought on already marginalized communities.”
“This robust legislation not only removes marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, but it also provides a path forward for the individuals and communities that have been most disproportionately impacted by our nation’s failed war on marijuana consumers,”
“The ongoing enforcement of cannabis prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, impedes legitimate scientific research into the plant’s medicinal properties, and disproportionately impacts communities of color,”
“Communities of color have disproportionately suffered for decades because of our racist enforcement of marijuana laws and that must be addressed in the age of legalization through policies such as the Marijuana Justice Act,”
“It is time for federal lawmakers to acknowledge this reality. It is time to stop ceding control of the marijuana market to untaxed criminal enterprises, and for lawmakers to amend federal law in a manner that comports with available science, public opinion, and the rapidly changing cultural status of cannabis.”
The Marijuana Justice Act of 2019 would:
- Remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances making it legal at the federal level;
- Incentivize states through federal funds to change their marijuana laws if marijuana in the state is illegal and it disproportionately arrests or incarcerates minority and poor people for marijuana-related offenses;
- Automatically expunge federal marijuana use and possession records;
- Allow individuals currently serving time in federal prison to petition a court for a resentencing;
- Create a community reinvestment fund to invest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs and allow the money to go towards the following programs: Job training, reentry services, expenses related to the expungement of convictions, public libraries, community centers, programs and opportunities dedicated to youth, and health education programs.
The bill sponsors said the following at the time of release:
“The War on Drugs has not been a war on drugs, it’s been a war on people, and disproportionately people of color and low-income individuals,” Booker said. “The Marijuana Justice Act seeks to reverse decades of this unfair, unjust, and failed policy by removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances and making it legal at the federal level.”
“But it’s not enough to simply decriminalize marijuana. We must also repair the damage caused by reinvesting in those communities that have been most harmed by the War on Drugs. And we must expunge the records of those who have served their time. The end we seek is not just legalization, it’s justice,” concluded Booker.
“Communities of color and low-income communities have been devastated by the War on Drugs,” Representative Barbara Lee said. “As Co-Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, I’m proud to sponsor legislation that would legalize marijuana at the federal level, address the disproportionate impact of prohibition on people of color by expunging criminal convictions, and promote equitable participation in the legal marijuana industry by investing in the communities hardest hit by the failed War on Drugs.”
“Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by misguided marijuana policy for far too long,” Khanna said.“Rep. Lee, Sen. Booker, and I are proud to introduce this important legislation and deliver justice for so many Americans.”
Thirty-three states, Washington, DC and the US territories of Guam, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico have enacted legislation specific to the physician-authorized use of cannabis, while an estimated 25 percent of Americans now reside in jurisdictions where anyone over the age of 21 may possess cannabis legally. Voters overwhelmingly support these policy changes.
To date, these statewide regulatory programs are operating largely as voters and politicians intended. The enactment of these policies have not negatively impacted workplace safety, crime rates, traffic safety, or youth use patterns. They have stimulated economic development and created hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue.
Specifically, a 2017 report estimates that over 149,000 Americans are now working full-time in the cannabis industry. According to tax data compiled by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, tax revenues in 2018 derived from state-sanctioned recreational sales surpassed $1 billion – a 57 percent increase over 2017 levels. Further, numerous studies have identified an association between cannabis access and lower rates of opioid use, abuse, hospitalizations, and mortality.
Sixty-six percent of Americans — including majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents — believe that “the use of marijuana should be made legal,” according to 2018 polling data compiled by Gallup. This percentage is the highest level of support for legalization ever reported in a nationwide, scientific poll.