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.
                                 ______

Marijuana Arrests On Rise In Va., Blacks Arrested Three Times More Than Whites

VIRGINIA: While the trend in much of the United States is moving toward decriminalization or legalization of marijuana, Virginia is heading in the opposite direction: sharply rising arrest totals for possession of pot, and a disproportionate number of black people arrested in the commonwealth, according to a new study based on state data reported to the FBI.

Though marijuana arrests dropped 6.5 percent nationwide between 2003 and 2014, possession arrests in Virginia increased by 76 percent in the same period, according to research by the Drug Policy Alliance in New York. And arrests of black people in Virginia for marijuana increased by 106 percent from 2003 to 2013, accounting for 47 percent of the state’s arrests though Virginia’s population is only 20 percent black.

The statistics were compiled by Jon Gettman, a public policy professor at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va., and follow his national marijuana arrest analysis for the American Civil Liberties Union in 2013. That study showed that black people were 3.7 times more likely to be arrested than whites for marijuana nationwide, and that 88 percent of the country’s arrests were for marijuana possession.