United States Senator Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey, has just introduced a bill that many advocates have been anticipating. After the legalization of marijuana on the state-level in almost half of the country in recent years, advocates have been wondering when the national government would reconsider its classification of weed as a schedule 1 drug – it’s highest classification. Even though weed is legal in a number of states, it is still illegal federally, which makes for an awkward situation with law enforcement.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions – the nation’s highest ranking law enforcement official – is notoriously opposed to marijuana. He once infamously said that he didn’t mind the KKK – until he learned that they smoked weed (which also had him in trouble with civil rights advocates). He has said that he would leverage his current position within the Trump administration to make it harder for states to make marijuana legal. However, Senator Booker has introduced legislation that would actually remove the authority from Sessions to do so. He can enforce federal law all he wants, but Booker wants to see that the federal law gets changed.
“You see these marijuana arrests happening so much in our country, targeting certain communities — poor communities, minority communities — targeting people with an illness,” Booker said in a Facebook Live announcement. He considers it unjust that people are spending their lives in prison for such minor offenses.
Booker acknowledged that eight states and Washington D.C. have legalized weed so far. “They’re actually seeing positive things coming out of that experience. Now I believe the federal government should get out of the illegal marijuana business,” he said.
“This is the single most far-reaching marijuana bill that’s ever been filed in either chamber of Congress,” said advocate Tom Angell of the group Marijuana Majority. “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.”