New Jersey Senator Cory Booker recently presented the “Marijuana Justice Act of 2017,” a measure that, if passed, would destroy federal marijuana prohibition as we know it. It would completely remove cannabis from the Federal Controlled Substances Act, ending marijuana prohibition on the federal level. This would allow states a free hand to decide their own cannabis policy, free from federal interference or oversight.
But wait, there’s more! It would also cut federal funding to states that disproportionately arrest and/or incarcerate low-income individuals and/or people of color for marijuana offenses, as well as give those who have been convicted of marijuana offenses recourse at the federal level.
“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 said during a Facebook Live session announcing the bill. “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.”
For years it has been clear to many – including myself – that federal law is a huge impediment to states legalizing marijuana. It is used as an excuse for state lawmakers to take a “wait and see” approach; after all, legalizing something that is illegal on a federal level could conceivably cause many problems.
“The question is no longer ‘should we legalize marijuana?’; it is ‘how do we legalize marijuana?’ We must do so in a way that recognizes that the people who suffered most under prohibition are the same people who should benefit most under legalization,” said Queen Adesuyi, policy associate at the Drug Policy Alliance. “From disparate marijuana-related arrests and incarceration rates to deportations and justifications for police brutality – the war on drugs has had disparate harm on low-income communities and communities of color. It’s time to rectify that.”
It’s time to rectify a lot of things when it comes to marijuana in the United States. And even though Booker’s measure stands little chance of success, it is already generating a lot of press and discussion about the nature of prohibition and the effects it has on millions of people across the country. It will cause more people to look into the issue and maybe even lead some to be more active in the legalization community.