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.

Kaine Introduces Bill To Allow Veterans To Access Medical Marijuana Through The VA

VIRGINIA: U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Service Committee, joined Senator Brian Schatz to introduce legislation to allow doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to discuss and potentially recommend medical marijuana to veterans in states that have established medical marijuana programs. The bill will create a temporary, five-year safe harbor protection for veterans who use medical marijuana and their doctors and direct the VA to research the effects of medical marijuana on veterans in pain as well as the relationship between medical marijuana programs and a potential reduction in opioid abuse among veterans.

“Right now, in the 33 states where it is legal, doctors may recommend medical marijuana to help eligible patients. Our bill ensures that doctors who work for the Department of Veterans Affairs can discuss and potentially recommend medical marijuana to their patients that are veterans in accordance with state law. To do otherwise amounts to unfairly punishing the men and women who served in our military. The bill would also take an important step in further exploring whether medical marijuana can be a viable tool to help veterans in pain and reduce opioid abuse,” Kaine said.

The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act is supported by the American Academy of Pain Medicine, American Pain Society, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Veterans Cannabis Coalition, Veterans Medical Cannabis Association, NORML, National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), Americans for Safe Association, Marijuana Policy Project, Drug Policy Alliance, and Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.

“Our members have spoken loud and clear on this issue,” said Tom Porter, Legislative Director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.  “Eighty-three percent of respondents to our recently-released member survey approved of cannabis use for medicinal purposes. With such overwhelming support, we need to be removing barriers to care for veterans, not maintaining them. IAVA applauds Sen. Schatz for introducing the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act to do just that.”

“When nearly one in four veterans report that they are consuming cannabis for therapeutic purposes, The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act would provide crucial medical and civil protections for the men and women who put their lives on the line to serve this country. It is unconscionable that these brave individuals who stepped up to protect our nation’s freedoms would be treated as criminals when they return home simply for treating their medical ailments with a safe and effective option under state law,” said Justin Strekal, Political Director for NORML. “We applaud and appreciate the leadership by Senator Schatz in putting forward this legislation.”

House And Senate Ag Leaders: We’ve Reached Agreement In Principle On 2018 Farm Bill

MJLegal

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: House and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairmen Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and Pat Roberts (R- Kan.) and Ranking Members Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) made the following announcement today on the state of 2018 Farm Bill negotiations:

“We’re pleased to announce that we’ve reached an agreement in principle on the 2018 Farm Bill. We are working to finalize legal and report language as well as CBO scores, but we still have more work to do. We are committed to delivering a new farm bill to America as quickly as possible.”

NORML PAC Endorses Senator Bernie Sanders for Reelection

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Political Action Committee (NORML PAC) has endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders in his campaign for reelection in Vermont.

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“Bernie has become one of the most outspoken and visible advocates for ending marijuana prohibition,” stated NORML PAC Executive Director Erik Altieri, “He has called for sensible drug policy throughout his career, made descheduling marijuana a key component of his platform when running for the Democratic nomination for President in 2016, and has co-sponsored key pieces of federal legislation such as the Marijuana Justice Act. Senator Sanders doesn’t restrict his fight for reform to backroom meetings and floor speeches in Congress, he takes our message with him as he holds massive rallies and town halls across not just the state of Vermont, but throughout the country. His fire and passion have helped elevate our issue in the national dialogue and we are honored to support his reelection campaign. He is a true leader in the marijuana legalization revolution.”

Criminalized To Capitalized: Social Equity Pilot Program Seeks Aspiring Cannabis Business Owners With Past Cannabis Convictions

CALIFORNIA: Largely missing from California’s booming new legal cannabis industry are millions of potential cannabis entrepreneurs systematically criminalized by the war on drugs, according to Los Angeles management consulting firm Seira, which today announced a search for participants in its Pilot Program for Cannabis Social Equity.

Participants in this Pilot Program will receive mentorship, training, and access to business development resources, preparing each cannabis entrepreneur to begin the process of Los Angeles city licensure as early as August, 2018. Funding and licensure are among the most significant obstacles for entrepreneurs affected by cannabis criminalization, according to Seira founders Steven Vasquez and Simone Cimiluca-Radzins.

Survivors of systematic cannabis criminalization are invited to attend a seminar in Mid-City  Los Angeles on July 19, 2018, from 6:30 to 8:30 PM, in order to learn if they may qualify for this Pilot Program. Seira is seeking applicants who reside in South Los Angeles, have experienced a cannabis-related criminal conviction, and are considered low-income.

As cannabis legalization sweeps the country and billions of dollars pour into marijuana business, people of color remain shut into prison and shut out of wealth. Black Americans are 3.5 times more likely than whites to be arrested for cannabis consumption, though the U.S. Census Bureau finds cannabis consumption rates are nearly identical across racial lines. Meanwhile, Black Americans own only about 1% of the nation’s thousands of legalized storefront marijuana dispensaries, according to a 2016 investigative report by Buzzfeed.

The disproportionate impact of cannabis criminalization on Los Angeles’s low-income and marginalized residents aroused the concern of the Los Angeles City Council, which passed a motion in June of 2017 directing the city to develop a Social Equity Program to decrease disparities in life outcomes for marginalized communities and address disproportionate impacts of the war on drugs in those communities. Seira’s Social Equity Pilot Program, designed by entrepreneurs within and outside the cannabis industry, will achieve these goals by shepherding entrepreneurs through the entire process of launching their cannabis businesses.

Washington AG Ferguson Statement On Sessions Letter

WASHINGTON:  In response to a letter from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions regarding Washington’s marijuana regulations, Attorney General Bob Ferguson offered the following statement:

“I was disappointed by Attorney General Sessions’ letter, which relies on incomplete, inaccurate and out-of-date information on the status of Washington’s marijuana regulations. I’m also disappointed that he has yet to accept my repeated invitations to meet in person to discuss this critical issue face to face. If he does accept, I look forward to providing him with a more complete picture of the robust regulatory program that exists in our state.

“Any action from the Department of Justice short of allowing our well-regulated, voter-approved system to continue is unacceptable. I will continue to defend the will of Washington voters.”

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. 

The Expectations Of The Legal Cannabis Market After Elections

MAINE: In California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine, voters decided that recreational cannabis use is now legal. Now as for Arizona, it was the only state that rejected the proposal. Making it four of the five states, where the proposal of legalization of cannabis for recreational use were approved. Companies in this sector profiting from the growing demand, views this as a highly positive development for the legal cannabis industry, as it may bring billions of dollars to the industry and to the states themselves.

District of Columbia, along with other 8 states now recognizes recreational marijuana use as a legal practice for adults. Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota assed ballot measures legalizing medical marijuana use only.  California is of course the most populated state and the largest market for cannabis. California Lt. Gov. and former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, said the proposition could generate up to $1 billion a year in tax revenue, as well as $100 million in saved taxpayer money on an annual basis.

NY Launches Medical Marijuana Program Thursday

NEW YORK: New York is the latest state to allow its citizens to use medical marijuana.

The Empire State kicked off its medical marijuana program Thursday with eight dispensaries opening for business.  The program comes 18 months after Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Compassionate Care Act.

It makes non-smokeable forms of medical marijuana available to New Yorkers.

Marijuana Decriminalization Law Takes Effect In Delaware

DELAWARE: Delaware has officially decriminalized possession by adults of small amounts of marijuana.

A decriminalization law signed in June by Gov. Jack Markell took effect early Friday morning.

The law makes possession by an adult of a “personal use” quantity of marijuana, defined as an ounce or less, a civil offense punishable by a fine of $100. Simple possession remains a criminal offense for anyone under 18. For those between the ages of 18 and 21, a first offense will result in a civil penalty, but any subsequent offense would be a misdemeanor.