Yesterday, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Marijuana Justice Act of 2017. The bill, which Senator Booker first announced on Twitter and then described more fully on Facebook Live, aims to end the federal prohibition on cannabis with a multi-faceted approach. First, the bill seeks to amend the Controlled Substances Act to declassify marijuana as a controlled substance under Schedule I of that Act. Presently, marijuana is in the same category as heroin.
Although Senator Booker describes the legalization of marijuana at the federal level as “first and foremost,” he describes the declassification as “just the beginning.” As written, the legislation is retroactive, requiring each federal court to issue an order expunging each conviction for a marijuana use or possession offense entered by the court before the date of enactment. The bill would provide individuals presently incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses with an opportunity have their sentences reviewed as though the Act was in effect at the time the offense was committed.
In addition to the shift in federal law, the legislation incentivizes states to become more flexible in their criminalization of marijuana. Under the proposed legislation, states would be ineligible for certain funding if they disproportionately arrest or incarcerate “low-income individuals” or “minority individuals,” as those terms are defined in the bill, for marijuana-related offenses.
Finally, the bill creates a “Community Investment Fund” of $500 million for communities that Senator Booker describes as having been “disproportionately impacted” by the enforcement of current laws. Senator Booker would have the community investment fund available to finance job training, reentry services, expenses related to expungement of marijuana-related convictions, community centers, and libraries.
Although the bill has been described as a “long shot” in the Republican-controlled Congress, given the ever-increasing presence of the legal cannabis industry, it is one worth following. You can learn more about the bill in the press release on Senator Booker’s website, and watch the Facebook Live video of Senator Booker discussing the bill: