Bill To Federally Legalize Weed, End Racial Disparity In Criminalization Introduced

There seems to be a ceaseless flow of legislation aimed at allowing rich white folks to profit from pot in America—while people of color and those without much money are intentionally kept out of the game. However a new bill was introduced in DC today that could possibly put an end to all the racially charged criminalization of the good herb, make reparations to those most victimized by it’s prohibition and completely legalize it at the federal level.

The Marijuana Justice Act of 2019—a bill to legalize weed, remove it from the Controlled Substances Act and incentivize states to end the racially disparate criminalization of marijuana consumers—is now pending in both chambers of congress. It was introduced earlier today in Washington by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) along with two California representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Ro Khanna (D-CA).

“The Marijuana Justice Act is the most comprehensive piece of federal legislation ever introduced to end the failed policy of marijuana prohibition and to address the egregious harms that this policy has wrought on already marginalized communities,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal in a press release this morning.

The Marijuana Justice Act of 2019 would remove weed from the controlled substance list which would in turn legalize it at the federal level. It would also funnel federal funds to states that change up their marijuana laws where weed is illegal and a disproportionate amount of minorities and poor people are arrested for marijuana-related offenses. It will also automatically expunge federal possession records and allow individuals who are currently serving time in federal prison to petition a court for a resentencing.

The legislation also provides a path forward for the individuals and communities that have been most disproportionately impacted by the failed war on stoners by creating a community reinvestment fund. Money in the fund will go to towards job training, reentry services, expenses related to the expungement of convictions, public libraries, community centers, programs and opportunities dedicated to youth, and health education programs.

“The War on Drugs has not been a war on drugs, it’s been a war on people, and disproportionately people of color and low-income individuals,” Booker said. “The Marijuana Justice Act seeks to reverse decades of this unfair, unjust, and failed policy by removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances and making it legal at the federal level.”

“But it’s not enough to simply decriminalize marijuana. We must also repair the damage caused by reinvesting in those communities that have been most harmed by the War on Drugs. And we must expunge the records of those who have served their time. The end we seek is not just legalization, it’s justice,” concluded Booker.

Currently an estimated 25 percent of Americans live where adults can purchase, possess and consume cannabis, reports NORML. And thirty-three states as well as Washington, DC and the US territories of Guam, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico allow medical marijuana. However the disproportion of minorities being busted for marijuana crimes persists. Hopefully this new legislation will change that soon.

“Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by misguided marijuana policy for far too long,” Khanna said. “Rep. Lee, Sen. Booker, and I are proud to introduce this important legislation and deliver justice for so many Americans.”

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