Cory Booker Introduces Federal Legislation to Decriminalize Cannabis


Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), one of the country’s youngest United States Senators, and one of only two African-Americans serving in that capacity, introduced a bill in Congress yesterday which, if passed, would land Senator Booker a secure spot in the annals of history.

Booker calls the bill the “Marijuana Justice Act”, removing marijuana from the Schedule of Controlled Substances and allowing states to move forward with their own forms of regulated cannabis. Activists have been working well over a decade to pass in 2015 and since then annually re-pass the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, which blocks federal funding for law enforcement against state-compliant businesses and individuals, so it’s hardly a new concept. According to a recent Quinnipiac poll, support of states’ rights on the cannabis issue enjoys 73% approval across the country. Moreover, it is not the first bill to be introduced which would aim to de-schedule cannabis at the federal level, a legal maneuver that would essentially “decriminalize” cannabis production and possession.

However, Booker’s goal with this particular legislation remains distinct. Not only does the New Jersey Senator want to address the problems of a criminal and underground market, he also seeks to ameliorate damages done to people of color over the years by the United States’ twisted and extremely racist War on Drugs.

Booker release the following comment on Facebook after the announcement of his bill: “For decades, the failed War on Drugs has locked up millions of nonviolent drug offenders—especially for marijuana-related offenses—at an incredible cost of lost human potential, torn apart families and communities, and taxpayer dollars. The effects of the drug war have had a disproportionately devastating impact on Americans of color and the poor.”

If allowed to move forward, the proposed legislation would offer the opportunity for current cannabis offenders in federal prison to have their cases re-examined for re-sentencing or commutation, and allow expungement for persons who have already been released for their cannabis crimes. The bill would also allocate federal funds to be used toward a “community reinvestment fund” to support employment and rehabilitation services for individuals who were formerly incarcerated for cannabis.

Whether Congress steps in to address federal cannabis policy this legislative session or in the future, the industry won’t be stopped and it is important to be informed. The International Cannabis Business Conference is the best place to learn from experts and network with other professionals and advocates. The next ICBC is in Kauai, Hawaii, on December 1-3, 2017.

Photo credit: Jamelle Bouie