Senate Democrats

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker Introduces Federal Cannabis Legalization Proposal

Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat and former mayor of Newark, introduced a proposal today that would legalize cannabis at the federal level and penalize states whose marijuana laws disproportionately target low-income and minority communities, according to a Politico report.

The Marijuana Justice Act, similar to other legalization bills that have been introduced at the federal level, would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act.

The bill, however, goes much further than that. If passed, the proposal would take a number of steps towards righting the wrong of cannabis prohibition: states who choose to maintain the status quo would see some federal funds withheld, the proposal would expunge all federal cannabis arrests and grant prisoners currently imprisoned for a cannabis-related offense the right to a sentencing hearing, and would also establish a new Community Reinvestment Fund that would seek to help communities who have been disproportionately harmed by the enforcement of federal cannabis laws.

“You see these marijuana arrests happening so much in our country, targeting certain communities — poor communities, minority communities — targeting people with an illness,” Booker said during a Facebook Live announcement of his legislation.


The chances of Booker’s bill being passed this session are slim at best: the majority of the Republican-held Congress still opposes legalization and the Trump Administration has even threatened a crackdown enforcement of federal cannabis laws on state-legal programs. Nonetheless, the Marijuana Justice Act is the most comprehensive and cannabis-friendly legalization proposal ever to be introduced by a federal lawmaker and is a sign of the recent and massive change in the federal landscape for cannabis policy.

Eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized adult-use cannabis. In his announcement, Booker said that, “They’re actually seeing positive things coming out of that experience.”

Notably, Sen. Booker’s home state of New Jersey is not among those states and he has not officially endorsed legalization in his own state — though there are lawmakers poised to propose legalization at the state level following current Gov. Chris Christie’s departure from office.

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