A new bill to deschedule marijuana was introduced this week by New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. The bill seeks to rebalance the “devastating impact” prohibition has had on minorities and low-income communities. The arrest rates are highly disproportionate in these communities given that usage across all demographics is the same. Booker is also looking at ways to give incentives to states to legalize the plant and to deal with the racial injustices that have occurred as a result of prohibition. Many of those arrested for cannabis possession have had their lives derailed as the scar on their record has made employment, housing and even education more difficult, not to mention the emotional and financial cost of incarceration on those charged and their families.
A Call for Public Support
Booker announced the bill in a live stream on Facebook, making his intentions clear. He is not only looking to change the law so that it is fair, he is also wanting to rectify the damage created by the law in the past, helping to restore justice and healing to the impacted communities. Currently it is not co-sponsored by anyone else although he is focused on getting bipartisan support for the bill so that everyone is working together as a community to amend the law. He called out for public support of this, stating that it would not be possible unless the people demanded change.
A Classification That Doesn’t Fit
Cannabis is still considered a Schedule I substance, making it illegal on a federal level in the same category as heroin. Only substances considered unsafe for testing, having no medicinal benefits and extremely high risk are put in the Schedule I category. With medical marijuana legal in 29 states across the country, it has been a long time since anyone considered marijuana as a plant without medicinal benefits. It is also a substance that is being tested on people in various capacities across the scientific communities. It simply does not fit the requirements that make it a Schedule I substance.
Benefits of the Proposed Bill
According to The Cannabist, the bill seeks to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act altogether, descheduling it so it can be regulated like cigarettes and alcohol. The amendment will work to restore some level of justice by expunging federal cannabis use and possession charges from past convictions and letting those serving a current sentence to be resentenced in accordance with the new law. In places where arrests against minorities and low-income residents have been disproportionate, federal funds for prison expansions would cease. The bill seeks to recreate some sense of balance to communities most devastated by prohibition by creating a reinvestment fund to support job training, reentry services, public libraries, health and education programs and more.
A Marijuana Bill with a “Far Reach”
The head of the pro marijuana organization Marijuana Majority said in a statement that it was “the single most far-reaching marijuana bill that’s ever been filed in either chamber of Congress. More than just getting the federal government out of the way so that states can legalize without DEA 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, so this is something that more senators should be signing on to right away.”
The bill has only just been announced and more news on its progression will have to be delivered as each step forward continues.