Inching Towards Federal Legalization of Marijuana; U.S. Senator Cory Booker Introduces Bill

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Sen. Cory Booker - Image via Fox Business

New Jersey Democrat, Senator Cory Booker proposed a new bill that would legalize marijuana at a federal level and encourage states to legalize it locally through various incentives.

However, with a Republican-controlled Congress and a presidential administration that is anti-marijuana, the bill, called the Marijuana Justice Act, will have virtually no chance of passing.

Senator Booker also points out the fact that a large number of marijuana related arrests happen in minority communities.

“You see these marijuana arrests happening so much in our country, targeting certain communities — poor communities, minority communities — targeting people with an illness,” Booker, the former mayor of Newark, said in a Facebook Live rollout of his legislation.

According to Politico, Booker’s bill would not only legalize marijuana at the federal level but also withhold federal money for building jails and prisons, along with other funds, from states whose cannabis laws are shown to disproportionately incarcerate minorities.

The legislation would also expunge federal convictions for marijuana use and possession. Prisoners currently serving time for marijuana related offenses will be entitled to a sentencing hearing.

Booker’s bill is the most far-reaching marijuana bill that’s ever been filed in either chamber of Congress. Although it seems very unlikely to pass, it has marijuana legalization advocates excited for what’s to come.

“This is the single most far-reaching marijuana bill that’s ever been filed in either chamber of Congress,” Tom Angell, chairman of the group Marijuana Majority, said in a statement. More than just getting the federal government out of the way so that states can legalize without [Drug Enforcement Administration] harassment, this new proposal goes even further by actually punishing states that have bad marijuana laws.

“Polls increasingly show growing majority voter support for legalization,” he said. “So this is something that more senators should be signing onto right away.”

Currently, eight states along with the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Many of those states are doing very well with the legalization of the plant.  Jobs are being created and marijuana dispensaries are thriving, bringing money into the states.

In 2016 the state of Colorado topped $1 Billion in legal sales of marijuana and was projected to make $140 million in tax revenue on marijuana sales alone. The state of Oregon collected $3.48 million in the first month that recreational marijuana became legal.

With polls showing a growing majority of voters support the legalization of marijuana, are we closer than we think to federal legalization? Possibly. But that depends on many things. I still think that day is far away, but it could happen sooner than we think.

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