Sen. Cory Booker wants to take marijuana off the federal controlled substance list

Sen. Cory Booker wants to take marijuana off the federal controlled substance list
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.)
Source: Richard Shotwell/AP
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.)
Source: Richard Shotwell/AP

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker says marijuana should come off the controlled substance list — and he’s introducing a bill to do just that.

The Garden State Democrat’s Marijuana Justice Act, which he’ll formally announce today via Facebook Live, would legalize marijuana at the federal level.

The MJA would award federal funds to states that change their pot laws if current regulations are shown to have an outsized impact on people of color, such as higher arrest rates.

The senator also wants to expunge federal marijuana possession and use crimes and let people serving federal prison time petition for resentencing.

“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 – instead they divert critical resources from fighting violent crimes, tear families apart, unfairly impact low-income communities and communities of color, and waste billions in taxpayer dollars each year.”

People wait in line at the Essence cannabis dispensary in Las Vegas. Nevada allows legal sales of recreational marijuana.
Source: John Locher/AP

Booker went on to say that “descheduling marijuana and applying that change retroactively to people currently serving time for marijuana offenses 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.”

The MJA would create a “community reinvestment fund” to help the places hit hardest by the War on Drugs, providing money for job training, post-prison re-entry services, public libraries and youth programs.

Queen Adesuyi, policy associate at the Drug Policy Alliance, hailed Booker’s proposal in a statement: “The question is no longer ‘should we legalize marijuana?’; it is, ‘How do we legalize marijuana?’ We must do so in a way that recognizes that the people who suffered most under prohibition are the same people who should benefit most under legalization.”

Tom Angell, chairman of the non-profit Marijuana Majority, in an email called the MJA “the single most far-reaching marijuana bill that’s ever been filed in either chamber of Congress.”

Booker isn’t the first lawmaker to advance pot legalization legislation in the Senate. Among those who have done so before are Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Already, “205 million Americans live in a state where marijuana use is legal in some way,” according to USA Today, although pot remains illegal at the federal level.

Changing that could run into static under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who earlier this year described weed as only “slightly less awful” than heroin and said “our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life.”

August 1, 2017, 11:00 a.m.: This story has been updated.