WASHINGTON DC – Democrat Presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Cory Booker introduced a bill on Thursday to legalize marijuana nationwide.
Co-sponsors of the bill, known as the Marijuana Justice Act, include fellow 2020 Democratic contenders Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Kamala Harris of California and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. Booker first introduced the bill in 2017, but it was not taken up for a vote.
Ten states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana, and leaders in New York and New Jersey have signaled their intentions to legalize. Michigan voters legalized recreational marijuana use in November.
Local governments cite the racial disparities in criminal sentences for drug offenders, which tend to disproportionately affect blacks and Hispanics, as well as increased tax revenues as reasons for legalization.
Earlier in the week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, both Democrats, announced a plan to revitalize the city’s aging subway system partially funded by tax revenue from legal marijuana.
However, cannabis is still illegal on the federal level. Booker’s bill would remove cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances, while also providing financial incentives to states to loosen their marijuana laws.
The bill also aims to reverse the damage done to those who were prosecuted for marijuana use by expunging federal crimes and allowing offenders to petition courts for shorter sentences. The sentencing reforms mirror those included in the landmark criminal justice bill that passed last December, known as the First Step Act, which Booker also sponsored. The federal bill eliminated mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders and gained unprecedented bipartisan support including from President Donald Trump.