When New Jersey Senator Cory Booker introduced the Marijuana Justice Act on Aug. 1, he knew its odds of becoming law were slim to none.
From a practical perspective, the bill — which would remove cannabis from the Drug Enforcement Agency’s scheduling system — is likely to fare no better (and possibly worse) than similar legislation introduced in past years, by the likes of Sen. Bernie Sanders, Reps. Tom Garrett and Tulsi Gabbard, and Rep. Jared Polis. However, pushing the bill into law may not truly have been Sen. Booker’s intention.
Rather, it is quite possible that, with the Marijuana Justice Act, Sen. Booker instead seeks to make public his solution to the rift between state and federal stances on cannabis. While first and foremost calling for the de-scheduling of cannabis as other legislation has done, this new bill takes things a step further by incentivizing states that have not legalized marijuana to do so.
In an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times, Kerry Cavanaugh writes that “under Booker’s proposal, states that choose not to legalize marijuana would lose federal criminal-justice funding if their enforcement has a disproportionate effect on poor and minority individuals.” In essence, the bill would work to bridge the racial disparity over marijuana arrests, where according to the ACLU, Blacks are four times more likely to be arrested for possession.
Furthermore, as Politico notes, the bill would empower individuals with the right to sue if they feel they are the victims of a “disproportionate arrest or imprisonment rate.” The bill would also establish a community reinvestment fund to bring resources back into the communities “most affected by the war on drugs.”
Many in the cannabis industry have applauded Sen. Booker’s approach.
Convectium managing partner Danny Davis agrees. “The government should not be incarcerating people by comparing cannabis to the dangers of legitimate Schedule I drugs,” he says. “Without this criminal element, and the negative externalities that come with it, widespread acceptance and legalization are the next logical steps. I have never heard a logical argument for listing cannabis as a Schedule I drug, so we thank Mr. Booker for giving us several logical ways to change it.”
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