Booker makes argument for pot legalization

Booker makes argument for pot legalization
© Greg Nash

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) is making his case for legalizing marijuana while also calling out lawmakers he said are hypocritical for trying the drug and then opposing such legislation.

"First of all, there's a rank hypocrisy if you look at the people here that have tried marijuana, who have smoked marijuana, and they're the very people sitting on the barriers for other people to do so legally," Booker said late Wednesday on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show."

The New Jersey Democrat argued that minorities are unfairly targeted when law enforcement cracks down on marijuana use, calling it a "poverty trap."

"What we see, unfortunately, marijuana enforcement is particularly targeted against poor communities, particularly targeted against minority communities. It is clogging our jails and our prisons. It is actually reinforcing racial disparities in this country," he said.

Booker also dismissed the argument that legalizing marijuana would lead users to move on to heavier drugs and pointed to reports that link the availability of pot to reduced opioid overdose deaths. 

"The evidence that it's a gateway drug just is not compelling, and the reality is, as I said with the challenges of opioid addiction, there's some great medical studies that have come out that have shown that actually having the availability of marijuana actually lessens the chances you're going to have overdose deaths," Booker said.

"I'm confident that the logic of this bill, the moves that eight states have already made, the District of Columbia, the evidence that's coming back in violent crime drops as well as actual revenue coming into the state," he added.

Booker proposed legislation Wednesday to end the federal prohibition on marijuana and encourage states to legalize it.

The move comes at a time when Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsLisa Page sues DOJ, FBI over alleged privacy violations Sessions leads GOP Senate primary field in Alabama, internal poll shows Trump rebukes FBI chief Wray over inspector general's Russia inquiry MORE is looking to crack down on marijuana.

It is unlikely Booker's bill will be passed into law, however. A similar bill from Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSaagar Enjeti says Buttigieg's release of McKinsey client list shows he 'caved to public pressure' Sanders endorses Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur for Katie Hill's former House seat Biden hires Clinton, O'Rourke alum as campaign's digital director MORE (I-Vt.) in 2015 gained no co-sponsors and ultimately stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee.