Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ.) has introduced a bill to legalize marijuana in the U.S. and combat the racial injustices surrounding it.
The senator announced his plans for the Marijuana Justice Act on Tuesday. The bill would remove weed, which is currently a Schedule 1 drug ― from the list of controlled substances. It also would cut federal funding for states where people of color and low-income individuals are disproportionately arrested or incarcerated in order to motivate those states to change their laws.
“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.”
Though black and white people have been found to use marijuana at around the same rate in the United States, black people are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for possessing it. Even in Colorado and Washington, where recreational use is legal, black people are twice as likely to be arrested for breaking the states’ marijuana laws.
Given the effect this has had on marginalized communities, Booker said it’s necessary to go beyond legalization and help those who have been disproportionately impacted.
“This has done serious damage to our communities. It’s done serious damage to American families,” Booker said in a Facebook Live video on Tuesday, noting that his goal is “restorative justice.” He continued, “Finding ways to take communities that have been disproportionately impacted and helping them to heal, helping them to recover from what has been an unjust application of the law.”
The Marijuana Justice Act calls for marijuana use and possession convictions to be expunged and those currently “for any individual who was sentenced to a term of imprisonment for a federal criminal offense involving marijuana,” the bill reads.
The bill would also create a Community Reinvestment Fund of $500 million to communities that were impacted by the war on drugs by providing funds for job training, reentry services, expenses for the expungement of convictions, public libraries, community centers, youth programs and health education programs.
“Descheduling marijuana and applying that change retroactively to people currently serving time for marijuana offenses is a necessary step in correcting this unjust system,” he said in the statement. “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.”
Watch Booker’s Facebook Live video above. Learn more about the Marijuana Justice Act here.