Sen. Cory Booker is reintroducing legislation that would legalize marijuana, expunge possession convictions, and invest in communities hit hardest by the United States’ war on drugs.
“I think we’re calling on people to be about justice, not just about adult use, which I support,” Booker said Thursday on BuzzFeed News’ AM to DM. “But to do that and not correct what has been a bigoted impact, a drug war that’s been a war on people, that over-incarcerated the poor, over-incarcerated minorities, over-incarcerated veterans.”
The Marijuana Justice Act, which was first introduced in 2017, would make marijuana legal at the federal level by removing it from the list of controlled substances. The bill would also reach further than any current marijuana legislation by clearing convictions related to marijuana possession.
“We need to be about restorative justice,” Booker added. “That means reinvesting in those communities that have been hurt by the war on drugs. That means expunging the records of people who have been unjustly convicted of things that two of the last three presidents have admitted to doing, doing things that so many members of Congress have admitted to doing.”
Booker, who recently announced that he is running for president, is joined by four other presidential candidates in the Senate who are cosponsoring the bill: Sens. Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Kirsten Gillibrand.
Booker said the bill would also incentivize states to rethink their approach on marijuana laws and how their policies impact low-income communities and communities of color.
Booker explained that he’d never smoked marijuana because he feared what might happen if he were caught possessing marijuana.
“I grew up with two parents who were really concerned that their young black kids were going to encounter a justice system that they knew was not fair,” Booker explained. “From the earliest ages I was just schooled by parents, ‘you’re an athlete, you’ve got so much going for you, your margins for doing things that are illegal are a lot thinner,’ and I feel that and I’ve seen that.”
In a recent interview on The Breakfast Club, Harris reaffirmed that she supported marijuana legalization after backing Booker’s bill in 2017 and said that she had smoked weed while she was in college.