Search Results for: Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris: War On Drugs Failed, Legalize Medical Marijuana

CALIFORNIA: California’s top cop and candidate for Sen. Barbara Boxer’s seat, Kamala Harris, issued one of her strongest statements of support for medical cannabis this week.

Speaking at the annual convention of California democrats, Harris said she would stand up for people, and challenge the policy of mass incarceration by recognizing the “war on drugs was a failure”.

“Now is the time to end the federal ban on medical marijuana,” she said. “It is,” she said, then laughed.

Attorney General Harris’ new statement aligns her with Sen. Boxer who co-sponsored a bill this year to end the federal war on medical marijuana. Some 80 percent of Americans also support legal medical cannabis.

Kamala Harris Speaks Out On ‘Inevitability’ Of Marijuana Legalization In California

CALIFORNIA: California Attorney General Kamala Harris says she is “not opposed” to legalizing marijuana, but stopped short of endorsing efforts to do so in the Golden State.

With legal recreational marijuana use fully underway in Colorado and Washington — and similar programs on the horizon in Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C. —advocates are hoping to bring a legalization initiative to the California ballot in 2016. Medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 1996, but recreational use is still prohibited.

In an interview Monday with BuzzFeed, Harris said that while she has no “moral opposition” to the substance, she has concerns over the law enforcement implications of legalizing it:

“I am not opposed to the legalization of marijuana. I’m the top cop, and so I have to look at it from a law enforcement perspective and a public safety perspective,” Harris told BuzzFeed News in an interview in Washington, D.C. “I think we are fortunate to have Colorado and Washington be in front of us on this and figuring out the details of what it looks like when it’s legalized.”

“We’re watching it happen right before our eyes in Colorado and Washington. I don’t think it’s gonna take too long to figure this out,” Harris said. “I think there’s a certain inevitability about it.”

Read the full BuzzFeed interview here.

Senator Harris, Colleagues Call On Congressional Leaders To Ensure Cannabis Small Businesses Can Access Emergency SBA Loan & Grant Programs

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Wednesday joined Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), and 7 of their Senate colleagues in sending a letter to Congressional leadership calling for forthcoming COVID-19 relief legislative packages to allow state-legal cannabis small businesses and indirect cannabis small businesses to access loan and emergency grant programs administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

In the letter, the Senators highlight the failings of current regulations that exclude small businesses with “direct” or “indirect” products or services that aid the use, growth, enhancement, or other development of cannabis from SBA-backed financing, including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). These outdated regulations have left taxpaying, state-legal cannabis small businesses behind during this crisis.

“The cannabis industry supports more than 240,000 workers in the United States, spanning 33 states and the District of Columbia. Some of these jobs have already been lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis, and there is significant risk of greater job loss in the coming months. Many cannabis businesses are small-to-medium size operators, and some have been ordered to close to comply with state public health safety measures without having access to the same support systems in place as other small businesses in different sectors,” wrote the Senators.

“Given the nature of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we must ensure that every American small business has the capacity to protect the health and economic wellbeing of their community and workforce. Therefore, we ask Senate Leadership to include in any future relief package provisions to allow state-legal cannabis small businesses and the small businesses who work with this industry to access the critical SBA support they need during these challenging and unprecedented times,” concluded the Senators.

In addition to Harris, Rosen, and Wyden, the letter was signed by Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Michael Bennet (D-CO).

The full text of the letter can be found here and below:

Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Leader Schumer:

Thank you for your ongoing efforts to address the needs of the American people during the COVID-19 crisis. We write to ask that forthcoming COVID-19 relief legislation allow state-legal cannabis small businesses and indirect marijuana small businesses to access emergency loan and grant programs administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Access to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program will allow these small businesses to keep their workers on payroll and prevent further job losses that are devastating the economy. The coronavirus crisis demands relief for all workers and businesses, no matter the sector.

The cannabis industry supports more than 240,000 workers in the United States, spanning 33 states and the District of Columbia. Some of these jobs have already been lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis, and there is significant risk of greater job loss in the coming months. Many cannabis businesses are small-to-medium size operators, and some have been ordered to close to comply with state public health safety measures without having access to the same support systems in place as other small businesses in different sectors.

SBA’s current regulations exclude small businesses with “direct” or “indirect” products or services that aid the use, growth, enhancement, or other development of cannabis from SBA-backed financing, including PPP and EIDL. Consequently, small business owners in states with some form of legal cannabis must choose between remaining eligible for SBA loan programs, or doing business with or in a rapidly-growing and legal industry.

Workers at state-legal cannabis small businesses are no different from workers at any other small business—they show up to work every day, perform their duties, and most importantly, work to provide for their families. This lack of access to SBA assistance for cannabis small businesses will undoubtedly lead to unnecessary layoffs, reduced hours, pay cuts, and furloughs for the workers who need support the most. The COVID-19 outbreak is no time to permit outdated federal policy to stand in the way of the reality that state-legal cannabis small businesses are sources of economic growth and financial stability for thousands of workers and families.

Given the nature of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we must ensure that every American small business has the capacity to protect the health and economic wellbeing of their community and workforce. Therefore, we ask Senate Leadership to include in any future relief package provisions to allow state-legal cannabis small businesses and the small businesses who work with this industry to access the critical SBA support they need during these challenging and unprecedented times.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

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. 

 

Harris Cosponsors Landmark Bill To End Federal Prohibition Of Marijuana

Marijuana Justice Act Seeks To Reverse Decades Of Policy That Has Disproportionately Impacted Communities Of Color, Low-Income Communities

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) today became the fourth U.S. senator to cosponsor Senator Cory Booker’s (D-NJ) landmark bill to end the federal prohibition on marijuana. The Marijuana Justice Act would remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances, making it legal at the federal level. Harris announced her support of the bill in a video.

“Right now in this country people are being arrested, being prosecuted, and end up spending time in jail or prison all because of their use of a drug that otherwise should be considered legal,” Senator Harris said. “Making marijuana legal at the federal level is the smart thing to do, it’s the right thing to do. I know this as a former prosecutor and I know it as a senator.”

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) became the first Senator to cosponsor the Marijuana Justice Act last year, followed by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in February, and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in April. In addition to these cosponsors, Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Ro Khanna (D-CA) introduced a companion measure in the House of Representatives earlier this year that has 35 cosponsors.

In addition to removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances, the bill would incentivize states through 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. 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:
    • Job training;
    • Reentry services;
    • Expenses related to the expungement of convictions;
    • Public libraries;
    • Community centers;
    • Programs and opportunities dedicated to youth; and
    • Health education

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.

Merkley Cosponsors Landmark Bill To End Federal Prohibition Of Marijuana

Marijuana Justice Act seeks to reverse decades of policy that has disproportionately impacted communities of color, low-income communities

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley has announced his cosponsorship of a landmark bill to end the federal prohibition on marijuana. Senator Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act would remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances, making it legal at the federal level.

Merkley has been a leader within in the Senate on several marijuana-related issues, spearheading bipartisan efforts to enable banks to serve legal cannabis businesses so they don’t have to operate in all cash, and to empower VA doctors to advise veterans on marijuana use in medical marijuana states. In 2014, he was the first U.S. Senator to support legalizing recreational marijuana.

“More than half of the United States has enacted legislation allowing for either medical or adult-use of cannabis, yet federal law remains in conflict,” said Senator Merkley. “This creates significant problems, not only with the prosecution of nonviolent cannabis crimes — which disproportionately hurts people of color — but also with lack of banking services for legally operating businesses. As long as financial institutions aren’t able to service cannabis enterprises, these businesses are forced to operate in an all-cash environment that’s unsafe and lacks accountability. This bill would place cannabis legalization in the hands of states — exactly where it should be.”

“I’m thrilled that Senator Merkley is joining our effort to make our criminal justice system more consistent with the words inscribed above our Supreme Court – equal justice under the law. The War on Drugs has been a war on people – and most often people of color and low-income individuals,” said Senator Booker. “I have seen firsthand the ways these policies have harmed neighborhoods, and I know that far too many innocent people in low-income communities and communities of color are having their futures destroyed by the disproportionate enforcement of these laws. It’s time for us to abandon the destructive federal prohibition of marijuana and focus our energy on righting the wrongs of the War on Drugs and prioritizing public safety and human potential.”

Merkley is the fifth Senator to cosponsor the Senate bill, along with Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT). In addition to these cosponsors, Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Ro Khanna (D-CA) introduced a companion measure in the House of Representatives earlier this year that has 35 cosponsors.

In addition to removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances, the bill would incentivize states through 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. 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:
    • Job training;
    • Reentry services;
    • Expenses related to the expungement of convictions;
    • Public libraries;
    • Community centers;
    • Programs and opportunities dedicated to youth; and
    • Health education.

Bernie Sanders Announces Bill To Abolish Private Prisons, Hints At Marijuana Policy Platform

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Bernie Sanders isn’t done talking about criminal justice reform — in fact, he’s merely getting started. The presidential contender continues to rise in the polls and sensible Drug War reforms will only increase his standing with the Democratic base.

Appearing at a campaign rally in Nevada on Tuesday, the Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential candidate talked at length about the unfairly punitive policies that plague the American justice system and disproportionately affect people of color in the United States. Speaking to the crowd of 4,500 supporters gathered outside the University of Nevada, Sen. Sanders went beyond his previous speeches on the issue, announcing that, come September, he will be introducing federal legislation which would abolish for-profit private prisons.

“When Congress reconvenes in September,” Sanders said, “I will be introducing legislation, which takes corporations out of profiteering from running jails.”

Tackling the problem of for-profit prisons is a bold move for a federal legislator, as the prison industry is a hugely profitable part of the U.S. economy. The top two private prison companies in the country, Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group, have a combined annual revenue of over $3 billion, much of which is spent lobbying elected officials to protect their bottom line. While some states, such as New York and Illinois, have enacted laws to ban the privatization of prisons, for-profit prisons have tragically remained a staple of the American criminal justice system, in large part due to the country’s skyrocketing incarceration rates made possible by the War on Drugs.

 

Higher Ground: Hempfest Still Matters, Dude

WASHINGTON:  “Not so sure about hitting Hempfest this year, bro,” said my biggest stoner pal TJ, loading yet another fat bowl of black market Blue Dream. “I mean, we legalized it. What’s the point?”

“I’ll tell you why,” I replied, sucking down the tube. “As soon as I can remember what the question was!”

Amazingly, Hempfest is celebrating its 24th year this weekend. In addition to being the world’s largest cannabis rally, Hempfest has always advertised itself as a “protestival,” commemorating the advances of cannabis, and protesting the ongoing War on Drugs—and the fact marijuana is still very much illegal at the federal level.