WASHINGTON - Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., on Monday became the first senator to cosponsor Sen. Cory Booker’s (D-NJ) landmark bill to end the federal prohibition on marijuana.
Wyden announced his support in a Facebook live tonight with Booker. The Marijuana Justice Act would remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances, making it legal at the federal level.
“Jeff Sessions and the Trump administration are still trying to fight a 1980s drug war that is socially unjust, economically backward and against the will of the American people,” Wyden said. “I’m proud to join forces with Senator Booker to fight this administration’s attempts to shift our country into reverse when it comes to federal marijuana policy. It’s more important now than ever to update outdated policies, right the wrongs against communities of color, and continue our work to lift up the voices of the many Americans who are speaking out in favor of legalization.”
“I’m thrilled that my colleague, Senator Wyden, has joined me on this groundbreaking bill,” Booker said. “It’s long past due that we reform our nation’s deeply broken drug laws, which disproportionately harm low-income communities and communities of color. This is more than a marijuana reform bill – it's about ensuring equal justice for all, and we won’t stop fighting until we fix our broken criminal justice system.”
In addition to making marijuana legal at the federal level, the legislation would also incentivize states through federal funds to change their marijuana laws if those laws are shown to have a disproportionate effect on low-income individuals and/or people of color. The bill is retroactive and would apply to those already serving time behind bars for marijuana-related offenses, providing for a judge’s review of marijuana sentences.
Specifically, the Marijuana Justice Act will:
· Remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances, making it legal at the federal level;
· Incentivize states through federal funds to change their marijuana laws if marijuana in the state is illegal and the state disproportionately arrests or incarcerates low-income individuals or people of color for marijuana-related offenses;
· Automatically expunge federal marijuana use and possession crimes;
· Allow an individual currently serving time in federal prison for marijuana use or possession crimes to petition a court for a resentencing;
· Create a community reinvestment fund to reinvest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs and allow those funds to be invested in the following programs:
o Job training;
o Reentry services;
o Expenses related to the expungement of convictions;
o Public libraries;
o Community centers;
o Programs and opportunities dedicated to youth; and
o Health education
Booker has seen the effects of our broken marijuana laws first-hand, dating back to his time as a tenant lawyer, City Council member, and Mayor of Newark, where he created the city’s first office of prisoner re-entry to help formerly incarcerated individuals re-integrate into their communities.
In the Senate, Booker has been an outspoken critic of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ effort to revive the failed War on Drugs. Earlier this year, he re-introduced the bipartisan CARERS Act, which would allow patients to access medical marijuana in states where it’s legal without fear of federal prosecution. He is also co-author of bills to restrict the use of juvenile solitary confinement and reform the way women are treated behind bars.
As the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, Wyden is working to ensure consumers are protected and state-legal marijuana businesses are treated fairly. In March, Wyden introduced the Path to Marijuana Reform, a package of three bills, including the bipartisan Small Business Tax Equity Act that prevents legal marijuana businesses from getting hit with an unfair tax bill. The package also includes measures to shrink the gap between federal and state marijuana policies and responsibly deschedule, tax, and regulation marijuana.