Search Results for: Cory Booker

The Congressional Record: Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act

[Pages S4669-S4672]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


          STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS

      By Mr. BOOKER:
  S. 1689. A bill to amend the Controlled Substances Act to provide for 
a new rule regarding the application of the Act to marihuana, and for 
other purposes; to the Committee on the Judiciary.
  Mr. BOOKER. Madam President, I rise to talk about the Marijuana 
Justice Act--a bill I introduced today that would end the Federal 
prohibition on marijuana and start to end the War on Drugs. For far too 
long we have approached drug use and addiction as something we can jail 
ourselves out of. It is beyond clear that approach has failed. It is 
time we start to address the persistent and systemic racial bias that 
has plagued our criminal justice system and adopt policies that will 
move us forward, not backward. It is time to de-schedule marijuana.
  Since 2001, arrests for marijuana have increased across the Country 
and now account for over 50 percent of all drug arrests in the United 
States. The ACLU conducted a thorough study of over 8 million marijuana 
arrests between 2001 and 2010. It found that 88 percent of those were 
for marijuana possession. Alarmingly, the study also found that African 
Americans are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana 
possession than their white peers, even though they use marijuana at 
similar rates.
  Over the last five years, States have begun to legalize marijuana in 
an effort to push back on the failed War on Drugs and combat the 
illicit drug market. Currently, eight States and the District of 
Columbia have legalized marijuana and more States are taking up 
measures to follow suit. We know from the experiences of States that 
have already legalized marijuana that we will gain far more than we 
lose--these States have seen increased revenues and decreased rates of 
serious crime, and a reallocation of resources toward more productive 
uses. In Colorado, arrest rates have decreased and State revenues have 
increased. Washington saw a 10 percent decrease in violent crime over 
the three-year period following legalization.
  However, the Federal government still treats marijuana as an illegal 
substance. It is time for the Federal government to end the Federal 
prohibition of marijuana.
  Today, I introduced the Marijuana Justice Act, a bill that would 
remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances, thereby ending 
the Federal prohibition. The bill would also automatically expunge 
records for people who were convicted of Federal marijuana use and 
possession offenses. We must help people with criminal records get back 
up on their feet and obtain jobs, and expunging their records is an 
important step in that process.
  The legislation would allow individuals currently serving time in 
Federal prison for marijuana offenses to petition a court for a 
resentencing. One of the greatest tragedies from the Fair Sentencing 
Act was that it did not provide retroactive relief to individuals 
serving time under the old crack and powder cocaine sentencing laws. 
The Marijuana Justice Act would allow people currently serving time for 
a marijuana offense to seek immediate relief.
  The bill would also use Federal funds to encourage States where 
marijuana is illegal to legalize the drug if they disproportionately 
arrest or incarcerate low income individuals or people

[[Page S4670]]

of color. Too often drug laws are enforced disproportionately against 
minorities and the poor. This is unacceptable and belies our values.
  Finally, the Marijuana Justice Act would establish a community 
reinvestment fund, which would invest money in communities most 
affected by the War on Drugs. Building new libraries, supporting job 
training, and investing in community centers will improve public safety 
and is the right thing to do after decades of failed drug policies.
  The Marijuana Justice Act is a serious step in acknowledging, that 
after 40 years, it is time to end the War on Drugs. It is time to stop 
our backward thinking, which has only led to backward results. It is 
time to lead with our hearts, our heads, and with policy that actually 
works.
                                 ______

“We Are Undermining Human Potential ”: Senator Cory Booker Rails Against Racial Disparities In Marijuana Convictions

NEW JERSEY:  “This is one of those issues, like the civil rights movement of the 1960s, where it should pull all Americans together to say enough is enough,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) told Vox.

The Senator is baffled by the fact that both groups, Black and White, use and sell marijuana at the same rate, but African Americans are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for it. In New Jersey, Booker said, African Americans make up just 14.7 percent of the population but account for 61 percent of the prison population.

“You go to college campuses and you’ll get white drug dealers. I know this from my own experience of growing up and going to college myself,” Booker told Vox. “Fraternity houses are not being raided by police at the level you see with communities in inner cities.”

Booker is also rattled by the overwhelming number of prisoners incarcerated for drug-related crimes. Meanwhile, prisoners who are arrested for violent, more severe crimes are drastically lower. In 2013, nearly 100,000 prisoners were jailed for drug-related violations; in the same year, just under 10,000 were incarcerated for violent crimes.

Rand Paul And Cory Booker Team Up To Protect State Medical Marijuana Programs

by Grover Norquist and Ethan Nadelmann

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: As soon as next week, the U.S. Senate will have an opportunity to vote on a bipartisan amendment being offered by Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ that would prohibit the federal government from spending taxpayer money to interfere with state medical marijuana laws. We urge members of both parties – and in particular those who support the 10th Amendment — to take a stand for sensible drug policy and against wasteful government spending. A similar amendment passed the U.S. House a few weeks ago with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have now legalized marijuana for a variety of medicinal purposes – and an additional ten states recently passed laws or have laws before their governors allowing access to CBD oils, a non-psychotropic component of marijuana that has proven uniquely effective in managing the epileptic seizures that afflict children with Dravet’s syndrome. New York may well legalize medical marijuana today.

Rand Paul, Cory Booker Join Forces to Protect Medical Marijuana From Feds

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Three senators proposed amendments Wednesday to ban the Justice Department from spending money to combat medical marijuana in states that allow it.

Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., are sponsoring an amendment to broadly ban action against state medical marijuana laws. Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., is sponsoring an amendment that would specifically protect patients.

The amendment offered by Paul and Booker mirrors a prohibition attached May 30 to a spending bill by the House of Representatives in a shocking 219-189 win for reformers.

The more narrow Walsh amendment would block enforcement of laws against illegal drug users possessing guns or ammunition if the drug in question is medical marijuana. “This measure will ensure that patients can hunt, purchase ammunition and protect their homes without fear of prosecution,” Walsh said in an emailed statement.

Senators Booker, Wyden, Schumer Joint Statement on Cannabis Reform Legislation

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) issued the following joint statement regarding comprehensive cannabis reform legislation in the 117th Congress:

“The War on Drugs has been a war on people—particularly people of color. Ending the federal marijuana prohibition is necessary to right the wrongs of this failed war and end decades of harm inflicted on communities of color across the country. But that alone is not enough. As states continue to legalize marijuana, we must also enact measures that will lift up people who were unfairly targeted in the War on Drugs.

“We are committed to working together to put forward and advance comprehensive cannabis reform legislation that will not only turn the page on this sad chapter in American history, but also undo the devastating consequences of these discriminatory policies. The Senate will make consideration of these reforms a priority.

“In the early part of this year, we will release a unified discussion draft on comprehensive reform to ensure restorative justice, protect public health and implement responsible taxes and regulations. Getting input from stakeholder groups will be an important part of developing this critical legislation.”

Booker Marijuana Provisions Pass House Judiciary Committee

2017 Booker bill provided framework for MORE Act

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Three key marijuana provisions designed to reverse decades of failed drug policy and first introduced by U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) passed the House Judiciary Committee today: record expungement, reinvestment in the communities most harmed by the War on Drugs, and removing marijuana from the list of deportable offenses.

Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act, originally introduced in 2017, was the first congressional bill to incorporate record expungement and community reinvestment with marijuana legalization. This legislation along with a Booker provision to remove marijuana from list of deportable offenses provided the framework for the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019 (MORE) passed by the House today.

“This is a significant tipping point. The Committee passage of this bill is an important step towards reversing decades of failed drug policy that has disproportionately impacted communities of color and low-income individuals. These draconian laws have sacrificed critical resources, violated our values, destroyed families and communities, and failed to make us safer,” Senator Booker said.This legislation continues us down the path towards justice and I’m excited to see momentum growing around the movement to fix our nation’s broken drug laws.”

Background on Booker’s leadership on issues of marijuana and criminal justice:

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. He is the author of the landmark Marijuana Justice Act, which would end the federal prohibition on marijuana, automatically expunge the records of those convicted of federal marijuana use and possession crimes, and reinvest resources into the communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs through a community fund. Since introducing the bill in 2017, Booker has garnered support from Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Ed Markey (D-MA).

In the Senate, Booker was an outspoken critic of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ effort to revive the failed War on Drugs. More recently, he pressed Attorney General William Barr on his stance on marijuana legalization and the rescission of the Cole memo, winning a commitment from Barr to leave states alone that have  legalized marijuana.

In addition to the Marijuana Justice Act, Booker is the co-author of the bipartisan CARERS Act, which would allow patients to access medical marijuana in states where it’s legal without fear of federal prosecution, and the bipartisan REDEEM Act, which would allow nonviolent drug offenders to petition a court to seal and expunge their drug offenses, while automatically sealing, and in some cases expunging, the nonviolent records of juveniles. These reforms would reduce a major barrier that formerly incarcerated individuals face when attempting to rejoin society. He is also a cosponsor of the Fair Chance Act, which prohibits the federal government and federal contractors from asking about the criminal history of a job applicant prior to a conditional offer of employment. Earlier this year, the Fair Chance Act passed out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the House Oversight and Government and Reform Committee. In June, Booker introduced legislation to remove marijuana from list of deportable offenses.

Booker, Lee, Khanna Introduce Landmark Marijuana Justice Bill

Social justice bill would end the federal prohibition on marijuana, expunge records, and reinvest in communities most impacted by War on Drugs

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), a member of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Co-Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), today reintroduced their landmark bill to end the federal prohibition on marijuana.

In the Senate, the bill is cosponsored by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Michael Bennet (D-CO).

“The War on Drugs has not been a war on drugs, it’s been a war on people, and disproportionately people of color and low-income individuals,” said Booker. “The Marijuana Justice Act seeks to reverse decades of this unfair, unjust, and failed policy by removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances and making it legal at the federal level.”

“But it’s not enough to simply decriminalize marijuana. We must also repair the damage caused by reinvesting in those communities that have been most harmed by the War on Drugs. And we must expunge the records of those who have served their time. The end we seek is not just legalization, it’s justice.”

“The War on Drugs has destroyed lives, and no one continues to be hurt more than people of color and low-income communities,” said Wyden. “There is a desperate need not only to correct course by ending the failed federal prohibition of marijuana, but to right these wrongs and ensure equal justice for those who have been disproportionately impacted.”

“Millions of Americans’ lives have been devastated because of our broken marijuana policies, especially in communities of color and low-income communities,” said Gillibrand. “Currently, just one minor possession conviction can take away a lifetime of opportunities for jobs, education, and housing, tear families apart, and make people more vulnerable to serving time in jail down the road. It is shameful that my son would likely be treated very differently from one of his Black or Latino peers if he was caught with marijuana, and legalizing marijuana is an issue of morality and social justice. I’m proud to work with Senator Booker on this legislation to help fix decades of injustice caused by our nation’s failed drug policies.”

“As I said during my 2016 campaign, hundreds of thousands of people are arrested for possession of marijuana every single year,” said Sanders. “Many of those people, disproportionately people of color, have seen their lives negatively impacted because they have criminal records as a result of marijuana use. That has got to change. We must end the absurd situation of marijuana being listed as a Schedule 1 drug alongside heroin. It is time to decriminalize marijuana, expunge past marijuana convictions and end the failed war on drugs.”

“Marijuana laws in this country have not been applied equally, and as a result we have criminalized marijuana use in a way that has led to the disproportionate incarceration of young men of color. It’s time to change that,” said Harris. “Legalizing marijuana is the smart thing to do and the right thing to do in order to advance justice and equality for every American.”

“Marijuana should be legalized, and we should wipe clean the records of those unjustly jailed for minor marijuana crimes. By outlawing marijuana, the federal government puts communities of color, small businesses, public health and safety at risk.” said Warren.

“This long-overdue change will help bring our marijuana laws into the 21st century. It’s past time we bring fairness and relief to communities that our criminal justice system has too often left behind.” said Bennet.

“Communities of color and low-income communities have been devastated by the War on Drugs,” said Lee. “As Co-Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, I’m proud to sponsor legislation that would legalize marijuana at the federal level, address the disproportionate impact of prohibition on people of color by expunging criminal convictions, and promote equitable participation in the legal marijuana industry by investing in the communities hardest hit by the failed War on Drugs.”

“Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by misguided marijuana policy for far too long,” said Khanna. “Rep. Lee, Sen. Booker, and I are proud to introduce this important legislation and deliver justice for so many Americans.”

The Marijuana Justice Act seeks to reverse decades of failed drug policy that has disproportionately impacted low-income communities and communities of color. Beyond removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances – making it legal at the federal level – the bill would also automatically expunge the convictions of those who have served federal time for marijuana use and possession offenses, and it would reinvest in the communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs through a community fund. This community reinvestment fund could be used for projects such as job training programs, re-entry services, and community centers.

The bill would also incentivize states through the use of federal funds to change their marijuana laws if those laws were shown to have a disproportionate effect on low-income individuals and/or people of color.

By going further than simply rescheduling marijuana with expungement and community reinvestment, Booker, Lee, and Khanna’s bill is the most far-reaching marijuana legislation ever to be introduced in Congress.

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.

Full text of the bill is here.

Background on Booker’s leadership on issues of marijuana and criminal justice:

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 was an outspoken critic of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ effort to revive the failed War on Drugs. Most recently, he pressed Trump’s newest pick for Attorney General, William Barr, on his stance on marijuana legalization and the Cole memo, winning a commitment from Barr to leave alone states that have already legalized marijuana.

In addition to the Marijuana Justice Act, Booker is the co-author of the bipartisan CARERS Act, which would allow patients to access medical marijuana in states where it’s legal without fear of federal prosecution, and the bipartisan REDEEM Act, which would allow nonviolent drug offenders to petition a court to seal and expunge their drug offenses, while automatically sealing, and in some cases expunging, the nonviolent records of juveniles. These reforms would reduce a major barrier that formerly incarcerated individuals face when attempting to rejoin society. He is also a cosponsor of the Fair Chance Act, which prohibits the federal government and federal contractors from asking about the criminal history of a job applicant prior to a conditional offer of employment. Earlier this month, the Fair Chance Act passed out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Booker-Sanders-Casey Statement on CBO Score of Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Bernard Sanders (D-VT), and Bob Casey (D-PA) issued the following joint statement in reaction to the preliminary cost estimate of the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act issued by the Congressional Budget Office:

“We are glad to see the independent Congressional Budget Office recognize that the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act — which will help lower prescription drug costs for millions of Americans by allowing the safe importation of prescription drugs from Canada and other nations — will also save taxpayers $6.8 billion over the next ten years. In addition, our bill will help patients struggling with skyrocketing drug costs save money while ensuring critical consumer safety protections — and providing major benefits for American taxpayers. We hope this CBO score will propel Senate Republicans to act and quickly take up this cost- and life-saving measure.”

In February, Booker, Sanders, and Casey introduced the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act to help lower the rising cost of prescription drugs by allowing Americans to import safe, low-cost medicine from Canada and other advanced countries.

The legislation would instruct the secretary of Health and Human Services to put forward regulations allowing wholesalers, pharmacies and individuals to import qualifying prescription drugs from licensed Canadian sellers. After two years, the secretary would have the authority to permit importation from countries in the Organizations for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) with standards for the approval and sale of prescription drugs that are comparable to those in the United States.

The bill includes detailed provisions outlining safeguards and consumer protections that ensure the safety of imported drugs, including FDA certification of foreign sellers, a clear definition of what drugs may be imported and supply chain security requirements. 

New Jersey Governor Murphy Signs Historic Adult-Use Cannabis Reform Bills Into Law

NEW JERSEY:  Governor Phil Murphy today signed historic adult-use cannabis reform bills into law, legalizing and regulating cannabis use and possession for adults 21 years and older (A21 – “The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act”) and decriminalizing marijuana and hashish possession (A1897). The Governor also signed S3454, clarifying marijuana and cannabis use and possession penalties for individuals younger than 21 years old.

“Our current marijuana prohibition laws have failed every test of social justice, which is why for years I’ve strongly supported the legalization of adult-use cannabis. Maintaining a status quo that allows tens of thousands, disproportionately people of color, to be arrested in New Jersey each year for low-level drug offenses is unjust and indefensible,” said Governor Murphy. “This November, New Jerseyans voted overwhelmingly in support of creating a well-regulated adult-use cannabis market. Although this process has taken longer than anticipated, I believe it is ending in the right place and will ultimately serve as a national model.

“This legislation will establish an industry that brings equity and economic opportunity to our communities, while establishing minimum standards for safe products and allowing law enforcement to focus their resources on real public safety matters,” continued Governor Murphy. “Today, we’re taking a monumental step forward to reduce racial disparities in our criminal justice system, while building a promising new industry and standing on the right side of history. I’d like to thank the Legislature, advocates, faith leaders, and community leaders for their dedicated work and partnership on this critical issue.”

“At long last, New Jersey is turning the page on our previous treatment of marijuana use,” said Dianna Houenou, incoming Chair of the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC). “I am excited to get to work building on the successes of the medical program and standing up the adult-use cannabis industry. It’s an honor to be part of this historic movement in New Jersey.”

“The failed War on Drugs has systematically targeted people of color and the poor, disproportionately impacting Black and Brown communities and hurting families in New Jersey and across our nation,” said U.S Senator Cory Booker. “Today is a historic day, and I applaud Governor Murphy, the legislature, and the many advocates for racial and social justice whose leadership is ensuring that New Jersey is at the forefront of equitable marijuana legalization policy. I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to end the federal marijuana prohibition so we can finally begin healing the wounds of decades of injustice.”

“This is a historic reform that will have a real-life impact on social justice, law enforcement and the state’s economy,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney. “We can now move forward to correct social injustices at the same time that marijuana is made legal for adults. This  will launch a new cannabis industry with the potential to create jobs and generate economic activity at a time when it is desperately needed. The decriminalization law is the most sweeping measure of its kind in the country and is a groundbreaking step in our continued effort to make criminal justice reforms that are fairer and more effective. This will help reduce the racial disparities and social inequities that have long plagued our criminal justice system.”

“For the last fifty years, marijuana criminalization has been used as a tool to propel mass incarceration,” said Senator Sandra Cunningham. “It has done immeasurable harm to Black and Brown communities around the country, and today we begin to right the ship here in New Jersey. I look forward to seeing the tangible impact this legislation has on our communities in the years to come.”

“I am proud to have been a driving force behind the most progressive decriminalization law in the country and I am grateful to finally see it enacted,” said Senator Teresa Ruiz. “Every day roughly 100 people in New Jersey are arrested for marijuana possession, this law is a move that offers individuals a second chance and ensures they do not become entangled in the criminal justice system. This is yet another step towards bringing justice and equity to our communities. Going forward, we must continue to look for creative solutions to reverse the generational impact the War on Drugs has had.”

“This will usher in a new era of social justice by doing away with the failed policy that criminalized the use of marijuana,” said Senator Nicholas Scutari, the leading advocate of legalizing adult-use marijuana in New Jersey over the past decade. “Too many people have been arrested, incarcerated and left with criminal records that disrupt and even destroy their lives. We don’t want the criminal justice system to be an unfair barrier to success. By implementing a regulated system that allows people age 21 and over to purchase limited amounts of marijuana for personal use we will bring marijuana out of the underground market where it can be controlled, regulated and taxed, just as alcohol has been for decades. New Jersey will now be a leader in legalizing a once stigmatized drug in ways that will help the communities hurt the most by the War on Drugs and realize the economic benefits of the new adult-use cannabis market.”

“We’re moving closer to the long-overdue need to end cannabis prohibition,” said Assemblywoman Annette Quijano. “So much time, effort, and thought have gone into this legislation. We’ve continued conversations, for what I believe, has produced a stronger piece of legislation with a focused eye toward social justice and equity. This is the beginning of a new era of economic opportunity, social justice for marijuana possession, and hope for a better future for thousands of New Jersey residents.”

“With legalization comes an unprecedented opportunity for residents to clean the slate with expungement provisions and for communities to grow their economic base with businesses,” said Assemblyman Jamel Holley. “A key component of cannabis legalization is addressing social justice concerns. The fact that Black New Jerseyans are 3 or 4 times more likely to be arrested on cannabis charges has contributed to the disenfranchisement of black communities. We have the opportunity here to also right the wrongs in our society in regards to past criminal possession of cannabis. No matter where you stand in the legalized marijuana debate, there has been a clear understanding that minorities within our urban communities have been hit hardest in the so-called War on Drugs. During this entire campaign for legalization, there has been one united vocal stance: There was harm done in the past and it must be corrected.”

“This new law includes real, enterprising opportunities for New Jersey communities that have been disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition, along with more defined employment opportunities and a commission that requires diversity,” said Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake. “This will be a clear revenue generator for the State, and the social justice and diversity portion in the legislation remains imperative.”

“Undoubtedly, this is the largest regulatory undertaking the state has considered since the Casino Control Commission,” said Assemblywoman Angela McKnight. “Remaining at status quo meant continued disparity in arrests for African Americans and teens for amounts now to be considered personal use.  We are moving the state in a direction more compassionate for cannabis and in line with what is happening across the country in regards to legalization.”

“This has been a long time coming in our State,” said Assemblyman Joseph Danielsen. “who chairs the Assembly Federal Relations and Oversight Reform Committee led the discussion on the bill in today’s hearing. “Social justice for black and brown communities, which have been generationally impacted by cannabis prohibition, and equity in business are priorities in this legislation. We cannot fairly, or effectively provide regulation without ensuring these communities stay at the forefront of the conversation.”

“New Jersey voters on November 3rd issued the Legislature a mandate: to provide the infrastructure for the legalization of cannabis in New Jersey. Today, we move on that directive by presenting legislation for discussion with fellow legislation and statewide stakeholders,” said Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly. “The War on Drugs in many ways became a war on particular communities, incarcerating millions of black and brown people and affecting families irreparably for decades. Our work on refining this legislation aims to correct the economic and social justice disparities surrounding cannabis use.”

“With Governor Murphy’s signature, the decades-long practice of racist marijuana enforcement will begin to recede, in a shift that emphasizes the urgency of building the most equitable framework possible for cannabis legalization,” said Amol Sinha, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, which is a founding member of New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform. “With this historic reform, New Jersey also shifts our approach to youth possession and use by moving away from the punitive status quo to a framework that values public health, harm reduction, and the well-being of young people. Our state’s cannabis laws can set a new standard for what justice can look like, with the removal of criminal penalties for possession and an unprecedented portion of tax revenue dedicated to addressing the harms wrought by the drug war. Signing these laws puts in motion the next phase of this effort: to work relentlessly to transform the principles of legalization into greater racial and social justice in New Jersey. This is a new beginning – and the culmination of years of advocacy – and we must keep in mind that it is only the start.”

Under A21, the Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) will promulgate regulations to govern the medical and adult-use industries and oversee the applications for licensing of cannabis businesses. The legislation further provides for the Legislature to reinvest cannabis revenues in designated “impact zones”; directs the CRC to promote diversity and inclusion in business ownership; and contains critical employment protections for people who engage in lawful behavior with respect to cannabis.

A1897 reforms criminal and civil penalties for marijuana and hashish offenses, as well as provides remedies for people currently facing certain marijuana charges. The bill prevents unlawful low-level distribution and possession offenses from being used in pretrial release, probation, and parole decisions and provides certain protections against discrimination in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation. The bill also creates a pathway to vacate active sentences for certain offenses committed before enactment of the enabling legislation.

The Governor today also signed S3454 into law, clarifying penalties for marijuana and cannabis possession and consumption for individuals younger than 21 years old. The legislation corrects inconsistencies in A21 and A1897 concerning marijuana and cannabis penalties for those underage.

“I have been working on decriminalizing adult-use marijuana for well over three years now, and I am happy to finally see it become a reality,” said Senator Ronald Rice. “This is a common-sense and just law that gives an equal playing field for folks in communities of color. Many have argued that legalizing adult-use marijuana has been for social, economic and criminal justice, however, decriminalization for me, is equally as important. I will continue to watch closely and fight to ensure communities of color are treated equally.”

“This is only one piece in the many parts of change that must be done in the name of social justice for our communities. The War on Drugs in many ways became a war on particular communities, incarcerating millions of people and affecting families irreparably for decades,” said Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly. “The action we take now to help our black and brown communities who have been disproportionately affected by current laws surrounding cannabis use is critical to trauma for future generations.”

“There have been far too many people, especially those from Black and Hispanic communities, who have been negatively impacted by the criminalization of cannabis,” said Assemblywoman Annette Quijano. “There have been long-term impacts on the lives of all people in this state, but considerably those of color. This law is the product of taking a hard look at our current laws, listening to the will of the majority of New Jerseyans and taking a common-sense approach to cannabis offenses.”

“Black New Jerseyans are up to four times more likely to be arrested on cannabis charges than White people. It is a sad fact, a further painful reminder that so people in our communities have been disenfranchised for far too long,” said Assemblyman Jamel Holley. “There have always been glaring social justice concerns and obvious inequity in the high number of arrests of minority residents. Now, finally, this is the time for it to stop.”

“It’s time for the change we seek,” said Assemblywoman Angela McKnight. “New Jersey residents are not happy with the status quo and we need to move in a direction of compassion for the communities that have long been targeted by current regulatory criteria. The call for action, for social justice reform, is resounding throughout our nation. And it begins in New Jersey today.”

“Decriminalization and expungement for those who have been disproportionately incarcerated for marijuana offenses is well overdue in New Jersey and many other states throughout this nation,” said Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake. “A criminal marijuana charge has a detrimental effect on an individual’s opportunity to access higher education, obtain gainful employment, receive housing support, and address child custody issues.  Not all communities are impacted equally by marijuana enforcement, measures to reduce the collateral consequences of criminal records are ones of racial, social, and economic justice. This is about social justice for a people who have endured the inequities in the law for generations.”

In July 2019, Governor Murphy signed legislation (“The Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act”) to reform New Jersey’s Medicinal Marijuana Program (MMP) and expand patient access to medical marijuana, ensuring this life-changing medical treatment is affordable and accessible for those who need it most.

In December 2019, Governor Murphy signed one of the most progressive expungement reforms in the nation, giving individuals entangled in the criminal justice system the opportunity to fully participate in society. S4154 eliminated fees for expungement applications and additionally created a petition process for “clean slate” expungement for residents, as well as required the State to implement an automated clean slate expungement system. Furthermore, the bill required that low-level marijuana convictions be sealed upon the disposition of a case, preventing those convictions from being used against individuals in the future.

 

Senators Harris, Nadler Introduce Comprehensive Marijuana Reform Legislation

MJLegal

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, on Tuesday introduced the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, one of the most comprehensive marijuana reform bills ever introduced in the U.S. Congress.

“Times have changed — marijuana should not be a crime,” said Sen. Harris. “We need to start regulating marijuana, and expunge marijuana convictions from the records of millions of Americans so they can get on with their lives. As marijuana becomes legal across the country, we must make sure everyone — especially communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs — has a real opportunity to participate in this growing industry. I am thrilled to work with Chairman Nadler on this timely and important step toward racial and economic justice.”

“Despite the legalization of marijuana in states across the country, those with criminal convictions for marijuana still face second class citizenship. Their vote, access to education, employment, and housing are all negatively impacted,” said Chairman Nadler. “Racially motivated enforcement of marijuana laws has disproportionally impacted communities of color. It’s past time to right this wrong nationwide and work to view marijuana use as an issue of personal choice and public health, not criminal behavior. I’m proud to sponsor the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, remove the needless burden of marijuana convictions on so many Americans, and invest in communities that have been disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs.”

“I am encouraged by Senator Harris’ Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act,” said Wanda James, CEO of Simply Pure Dispensary, Denver, CO, and the first African American woman to own a marijuana dispensary in Colorado. “Her focus and dedication to ending the generational damage done by mass incarceration due to federal cannabis prohibition is what is needed from our leadership. I am also excited about her emphasis in providing a path to ownership and wealth creation in communities that have been the most affected by this failed and racist drug war. It is time to change this history.”

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act aims to correct the historical injustices of failed drug policies that have disproportionately impacted communities of color and low-income communities by requiring resentencing and expungement of prior convictions. This will create new opportunities for individuals as they work to advance their careers, education, and overall quality of life. Immigrants will also benefit from the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, as they will no longer be subject to deportation or citizenship denial based on even a minor marijuana offense. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act also ensures that all benefits in the law are available to juvenile offenders.

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act:

  • Decriminalizes marijuana at the federal level by removing the substance from the Controlled Substances Act. This applies retroactively to prior and pending convictions, and enables states to set their own policy.
  • Requires federal courts to expunge prior convictions, allows prior offenders to request expungement, and requires courts, on motion, to conduct re-sentencing hearings for those still under supervision.
  • Authorizes the assessment of a 5% sales tax on marijuana and marijuana products to create an Opportunity Trust Fund, which includes three grant programs:
    • The Community Reinvestment Grant Program: Provides services to the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs, including job training, re-entry services, legal aid, literacy programs, youth recreation, mentoring, and substance use treatment.
    • The Cannabis Opportunity Grant Program: Provides funds for loans to assist small businesses in the marijuana industry that are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
    • The Equitable Licensing Grant Program: Provides funds for programs that minimize barriers to marijuana licensing and employment for the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.
  • Opens up Small Business Administration funding for legitimate cannabis-related businesses and service providers.
  • Provides non-discrimination protections for marijuana use or possession, and for prior convictions for a marijuana offense:
    • Prohibits the denial of any federal public benefit (including housing) based on the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense.
    • Provides that the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense, will have no adverse impact under the immigration laws.
  • Requires the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on the demographics of the industry to ensure people of color and those who are economically disadvantaged are participating in the industry.

Along with Harris and Nadler, co-sponsors of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act include U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Ron Wyden (D-OR); and U.S. Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Hakeem S. Jeffries (D-NY), Nydia M. Velazquez (D-NY), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), David Cicilline (D-RI), Steve Cohen (D-TN), J. Luis Correa (D-CA), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Theodore E. Deutch (D-FL), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (D-GA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Jamie Raskin (D-MA), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Dwight Evans (D-PA), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Debra A. Haaland (D-NM), Ro Khanna (D-CA), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Maxine Waters (D-CA), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ).

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act has the support of a broad coalition of civil rights, criminal justice, drug policy, and immigration groups, including: the Drug Policy Alliance, Center for American Progress, 4thMVMT, ACLU, California Minority Alliance, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Human Rights Watch, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), Sentencing Project, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, UndocuBlack Network, Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).

“The disproportionate rates of marijuana arrests and incarceration faced by low-income communities and communities of color only scratch the surface of the devastation that prohibition has caused,” said Queen Adesuyi, policy coordinator for Drug Policy Alliance. “Marijuana convictions have disrupted people’s lives — from one’s ability to secure or maintain employment, housing, funds for education, a valid driver’s license to the ability to keep one’s kids or remain in this country for noncitizens. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act ends prohibition in a way that centers communities most impacted by criminalization with reform that is as comprehensive as the decades of harm inflicted.”

“America’s black and brown communities have paid the heaviest price for this country’s drug war. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act marks an unprecedented step toward repairing this harm and represents the responsible way to move forward on marijuana policy,” said Ed Chung, Vice President of Criminal Justice Reform at the Center for American Progress. “We look forward to working with Congress to swiftly pass this bill.”

“At a point in time when simultaneously one person could have their life ruined in New York for the exact same action that makes someone in California a millionaire, now more than ever we must end the federal prohibition of marijuana,” said Justin StrekalPolitical Director for NORML. “The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act embodies the need to legalize cannabis and restore the rights of those who have suffered under the cruel and failed policy of criminalization.”

“Marijuana legalization is imperative if we are to move closer to true criminal justice reform, racial equality, and economic justice,” said Jesselyn McCurdy, Deputy Director of the Washington Legislative Office at the ACLU. “Too many communities of color have been disproportionately targeted and over-policed as a result of the war on drugs. We support this comprehensive bicameral legislation that aims to not only chart a more equitable path forward, but also repair some of the harm caused by the punitive marijuana laws of the past.

“We thank Senator Harris and Chairman Nadler for introducing the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement Act,” said Olivia Golden, Executive Director of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). “To successfully mitigate the damage of a biased criminal justice system, we need legislation that directly addresses the racial and economic disparities caused by marijuana criminalization. As an anti-poverty organization, we applaud the bill’s promotion of equal access to economic opportunities in the marijuana industry, support for community reinvestment strategies, and provisions ensuring that people with marijuana convictions no longer face the collateral consequences of a criminal record. By doing all this, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act would be an important first step to repairing the harm to communities of color and low-income communities from decades of discriminatory drug law enforcement and mass incarceration policies.”

For bill text, click here.