The Marijuana Justice Act Provides Hope for Equity and Advancement

The legislation would steer the country in the right direction, away from the failed War on Drugs.

Cory Booker. Illustration by James the Stanton

On August 1, Senator Cory Booker introduced an audacious piece of legislation, the Marijuana Justice Act. It would introduce sweeping changes for cannabis on the federal level. At the top of the list: descheduling cannabis—legalizing it once and for all. In an impassioned live video on Facebook, Booker pointed out the various failures of The War on Drugs: wasted tax money, hindered communities, and lives ruined. “You see these marijuana arrests happening so much in our country,” he said, “targeting certain communities—poor communities, minority communities—targeting people with an illness.”

But the bill goes much further. Booker’s legislation provides a process for expunging people’s records for federal marijuana use and possession crimes, and those currently serving time would be able to petition for a resentencing. Truly, this is the type of legislation that could change the fates of whole families and communities. As federal convictions are removed from people’s records, their hindrances are removed and a host of rights are restored: the right to vote, the right to do business with the government, and the right to join the armed forces, to name just a few.

The MJA also takes a hard look at communities damaged by the War on Drugs, creating what Sen. Booker calls a “community reinvestment fund,” funneling money into those cities and neighborhoods hit hardest. The money would be dedicated to building re-entry centers for those coming out of prison and job-training centers, as well as other neighborhood resources like libraries and community centers. “Our country’s drug laws are badly broken and need to be fixed,” Senator Booker said. “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.”

Not satisfied with restoring people’s rights and giving power back to damaged communities, Booker’s legislation would encourage states to do even more by tying federal tax money to incarceration records—cutting money for state law enforcement and prison construction if a state has a disproportionate arrest and/or incarceration record for low-income individuals and/or people of color for marijuana offenses. And, in perhaps the sweetest twist, Booker also includes provisions for people to sue states with disproportionate arrest and conviction rates.

Yet another benefit the country could reap from this bill: Widespread legalization could be the tool health-care workers need to fight the opioid epidemic. A new survey conducted by Brightfield Group and HelloMD asked the largest group of CBD users yet—2,400 people—about their use of “traditional” medicines as well as medicinal CBD. Forty-two percent of CBD users said they had completely replaced using medications like Tylenol or Vicodin in favor of CBD. Other recent studies have shown a 23 percent drop in the number of opioid-dependent patients hospitals are treating in states that have legalized medical cannabis.

Senator Booker faces a nearly impossible battle as we deal with an ultra-conservative GOP-controlled Congress, but support for cannabis, medicinal and recreational, is at an all-time high in America. Perhaps this is the catalyst that will finally get the U.S. Government to catcha fire.

stashbox@seattleweekly.com

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