A bill was introduced by a couple of House Democrats last week that would forever change marijuana laws in the US. The Marijuana Justice Act was offered to Congress by pro-legalization lawmakers. And its a direct response to Jeff Sessions’ decision to revoke the Cole Memo earlier this year.
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker originally introduced the Marijuana Justice Act last August. It was acknowledged as “the single most far-reaching marijuana bill that’s ever been filed in either chamber of Congress.”
What is the Marijuana Justice Act, though? And how would it change existing marijuana laws?
The Marijuana Justice Act Would Dramatically Change the Country’s Current Cannabis Laws
The Marijuana Justice Act was introduced last Wednesday by California House Representatives Barbara Lee and Ro Khanna. Its the House version of the bill introduced by Booker last summer. Not only does the bill call for the legalization of marijuana at the federal level. It goes far beyond simple legalization.
The Marijuana Justice Act: Not Your Everyday Legalization Bill
First things first. Yes, the Marijuana Justice Act calls for the federal legalization of cannabis. But it also works to justify for the decades of harm inflicted from the failed war on drugs. It also aims to address and correct the racial injustice of cannabis-related arrests and prosecution in the country.
Aside from federally legalizing weed, some of the key components of the Marijuana Justice Act include:
- Removing all federal convictions for possessing or using cannabis
- Cutting federal funding for law enforcement and the construction of prisons in states where marijuana arrests have disproportionately affected poor people or people of color
- Allocate $500 million as a “community reinvestment fund” that would provide job training. The majority of this would be spent in communities that have a disproportionately high number of marijuana arrests
The Marijuana Justice Act Aims to End the War on Drugs
House Representative Lee says, “We intend to end this destructive war on drugs, and this legislation will do that. It’s a roadmap for ending the drug war, but it also begins to address mass incarceration and disinvestment in communities of color. It is an essential step to correcting the injustices of the failed war on drugs, namely racial disparities in arrest and incarceration.”
ACLU director Amol Sinha recently said that legalizing marijuana is a “racial justice issue.” Sinha cites “in New Jersey, you are three times more likely to be arrested and convicted for marijuana possession if you’re black than if you’re white.”
In other parts of the country, blacks are over eight times as likely to be arrested for possession of weed than whites. House Representative Ro Khanna believes this negatively impacts economic potential. Khanna approximates time blacks spend in jail for possession equals “hundreds of millions of dollars lost in economic potential.”
The Marijuana Justice Act aims to see this end.
Will the Marijuana Justice Act Put an End to Outdated Policy?
It’s no doubt that the Marijuana Justice Act would radically shift marijuana policy in the US. It would make weed federally legal. The bill would help put an end to the racial injustice countless have been directly affected by for possession. And it would work to end the war on drugs.
Booker, who drafted the original Marijuana Justice Act, was at the press conference last week that introduced the House version.
“There is a rush of enthusiasm for legalization,” Booker said. “But it seems like hypocrisy and injustice if you legalize it but don’t try to undo the damage of the war on drugs. You can’t get a Pell grant or a business or professional license for doing something three out of our last four presidents have admitted doing. The war on drugs is one of the greatest assaults on people of color since Jim Crow, and that’s why this is a very happy day for me. We’re trying to make this nation live up to its promise of liberty and justice, not just for the privileged few, but for all.”
Whether the bill will pass is another question entirely. The bill so far has 12 Democratic cosponsors, and zero Republican supporters. The process in which a bill becomes a law is lengthy, and in the end, will ultimately need the final okay of the President.