California Congresswoman Barbara Lee is championing Sen. Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act in the House of Representatives.
Lee on Wednesday introduced a companion House bill to Booker’s legislative effort to end federal marijuana prohibition introduced in the Senate last August.
The House version has 12 co-sponsors, including Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., and marks the first time that companion legislation has been introduced in both chambers of Congress to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, according to Lee. But the Democratic congresswoman from Oakland said that the bill was about much more than legalizing marijuana.
“This bill is an essential step in correcting the injustices of the failed War on Drugs,” Lee said in a press conference Wednesday with Booker and Khanna broadcast on Facebook Live. “…Restorative justice is extremely important in this effort.”
The recent decision by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to rescind Obama-era guidance on federal marijuana enforcement could have devastating consequences for the poor and people of color, Lee said.
“We know who is most likely to suffer from a revival — and that’s what (Sessions’) actions would precipitate — that’s a revival on the War on Drugs,” she said.
Booker in the press conference also emphasized the importance of provisions in the bill to undo the damage caused by decades of failed marijuana policy. One such provision would slash federal funding for state law enforcement in states that disproportionately arrest the poor or people of color for marijuana offenses, he said. Another would create a $500 million fund to be invested in communities most impacted by the War on Drugs, which he called “the greatest assault on people of color since Jim Crow.”
The New Jersey Democratic senator thanked Californian Lee for her leadership on social justice issues and hailed her efforts to advance the Marijuana Justice Act, comparing the burgeoning national movement to end federal prohibition of marijuana and repair the damage caused by the War on Drugs to the effort for national marriage equality.
“People didn’t believe (marriage equality) was going to happen, and suddenly we were there,” he said. “As much as our leadership is important, the old saying down here in Washington is: ‘Change doesn’t come from Washington, it comes to Washington.’ And so we’re hoping this bill will excite and energize people in the grassroots to continue to push for change.”
The Marijuana Justice Act would:
• Remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, ending federal prohibition of marijuana
• Cut federal funding for state law enforcement and prison construction if a state disproportionately arrests and/or incarcerates low-income individuals and/or people of color for marijuana offenses
• Allow entities to sue states that disproportionately arrest and/or incarcerate low-income individuals and/or people of color for marijuana offenses
• Prevent deportations of individuals for marijuana offenses
• Provide for a process of expungement for marijuana offenses at the federal level
• Provide for a process of resentencing for marijuana offenses at the federal level
• Create a “Community Reinvestment Fund” of $500 million to invest in communities most impacted by the war on drugs, for programs such as job training, reentry, community centers, and more. Part of the funding will come from the aforementioned cuts to state law enforcement and prison construction