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Cory Booker’s new bill: Pay states to legalize pot, release prisoners in jail for marijuana charges

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Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced legislation that would federally legalize marijuana. The Marijuana Justice Act not only wants to decriminalize weed on the federal level but also provide financial incentives to states who legalize it.

The proposed legislation would decriminalize marijuana by removing it from the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) list of controlled substances. If passed, the law would provide federal funds to states that change their marijuana laws. In addition, the bill would retroactively apply to those who are currently behind bars for marijuana related offenses.

Under the Controlled Substance Act, marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug classified the same as heroin and LSD. Schedule 1 drugs are characterized as high risk for abuse of the substance and serve no medical purpose. Since its classification, researchers have found that marijuana helps treat glaucoma and helps control epileptic seizures, pain, anxiety, and other health issues. These findings linking the benefits of its controlled use have come to light in recent years, yet President Obama, who was seen by his supporters as an advocate for marijuana reform, refused to legalize the drug and declassify from its Schedule 1 status.

Now, the New Jersey senator is taking a long shot to try to push the bill through a Republican-controlled legislative body. The likelihood of this bill passing is slim.

Currently, eight states have legalized marijuana. Some of the main concerns from the legalization in these states is that they’re unable to regulate how much marijuana people purchase. Someone could go to dispensary after dispensary and bring back and or sell the drug in other places, due to lack of control on the borders to its neighboring states. Police have argued legalizing recreational marijuana in Colorado has presented many challenges for law enforcement as more people come to Colorado with the intent to grow and distribute in other states.

In opposition is President Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has once compared pot to heroin and the opioid crisis that has killed thousands of Americans. Sessions earlier this year said, “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

By legalizing marijuana, supporters say it’d help police focus less on small marijuana possession charges and more on the bigger issues within the “War on Drugs.” In 2015, almost 650,000 people were arrested for violating marijuana laws, and 89 percent of those offenses were for possession only.

“Our country’s drug laws are badly broken and need to be fixed,” Senator Booker said in a statement on the bill. “They don’t make our communities any safer – instead they divert critical resources from fighting violent crimes, tear families apart, unfairly impact low-income communities and communities of color, and waste billions in taxpayer dollars each year,” he continued.

Booker argued that the current laws hurt minorities and low-income marijuana users. Those in support of legalizing the drug claim that it would help alleviate the cost and resources that it takes to control pot and reduce overpopulated prisons due to the “War on Drugs.”  The bill was introduced on August 1st and has yet to receive any co-sponsors.


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