Booker introduces bill to legalize marijuana

Greg Nash

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) on Tuesday introduced legislation to end the federal prohibition on marijuana and encourage states to legalize pot.

The legislation would amend the Controlled Substance Act to eliminate marijuana’s status as a Schedule 1 drug — a move that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level.

It would also try to incentivize states to legalize marijuana if their current laws have a “disproportionate arrest rate” on minority or low-income individuals.

“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.”


If the attorney general, coordinating with the director of Bureau of Justice Assistance, determines a state’s laws are disproportionally penalizing, a state would not eligible for federal funding for constructing or staffing jails under the measure.

Booker added that the retroactive changes to individuals still serving is a “necessary step in correcting this unjust system.”

“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,” he said. 

The bill would take any funds not given to penalized states to help create a “Community Reinvestment Fund” that would go to “communities most affected by the war on drugs” for job training, youth programs and community centers.

Booker’s legislation would also be retroactive and require federal courts to expunge previous marijuana-related convictions. Individuals still in jail could petition to get their sentence shortened to comply with Booker’s bill.

Booker’s bill is unlikely to be passed through Congress. A similar 2015 bill from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) gained no cosponsors and stalled in the Judiciary Committee.

The Trump administration is signaling it will take a tough line on marijuana.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote to lawmakers earlier this year asking them not to block the Department of Justice from using funds to enforce federal marijuana laws.

Updated: 1:57 p.m.

Tags Bernie Sanders Jeff Sessions
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