With the legalization of marijuana currently spanning twenty-six states (and D.C.), attitudes around weed have shifted sharply over the past several years. As dispensary owners set up shop and states begin to rake in tax revenue from the sale and distribution of herb, this new approach has not resulted in its decriminalization in the broader sense. While black and white people use marijuana at equal rates in the U.S., black people are still nearly 4 times more likely to be arrested for possession of it. In states like Colorado and Washington, where recreational use is legal, black people are still twice as likely to be arrested for breaking state marijuana laws.
With Tuesday's introduction of the Marijuana Justice Act, Senator, Cory Booker hopes to change this. The New Jersey Democrat has set upon a mission to legalize weed and dismantle the racial injustices surrounding it. If passed, the bill would remove marijuana from the list of Schedule 1 controlled substances and cut federal funding for states that show disproportionate rates of arrest and incarceration for low-income individuals and people of color. “Our country’s drug laws are badly broken and need to be fixed,” Booker said in a statement. “They don’t make our communities any safer – instead they divert critical resources from fighting violent crimes, tear families apart, unfairly impact low-income communities and communities of color, and waste billions in taxpayer dollars each year.”
The Senator took to Facebook Live on Tuesday to outline specific goals around what he refers to as, “restorative justice.” One of the goals would be to expunge possession convictions “for any individual who was sentenced to a term of imprisonment for a federal criminal offense involving marijuana.” The bill would also create a Community Reinvestment Fund of $500 million to help restore communities impacted by the war on drugs. “States have so far led the way in reforming our criminal justice system and it’s about time the federal government catches up and begins to assert leadership.”
Watch Booker’s Facebook Live video here: