A New Jersey U.S. Senator is pressing ahead with plan make marijuana legal on the federal level.

The Marijuana Justice Act, sponsored by Sen. Cory Booker, would remove pot from the government’s list of controlled substances.

Currently, marijuana is listed as a Schedule 1 drug, along with heroin and LSD. That's despite laws in some states — and possibly law soon in New Jersey — that allow marijuana for recreational use.

The legislation also calls for federal funding to be cut for state law enforcement agencies and the construction of prisons if it is shown a state is disproportion ally arresting and or locking up low-income individuals, and or people of color on marijuana charges.

During a telephone news conference. Booker said that while marijuana usage for blacks and whites is similar, African Americans are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested on marijuana charges than their white counterparts.

The measure would also create a legal pathway for those convicted of using and possessing marijuana to have their records expunged, or to be resentenced.

Booker said momentum to decriminalize marijuana use and possession is definitely growing. Marijuana is already legal for medicinal use under New Jersey law.

“There’s a rush of enthusiasm about legalization going on everywhere from California to New Jersey.”

He said, however , t’s unjust and hypocritical to talk about legalizing marijuana “if you don’t try to undo the damage that was done by this awful war on drugs.”

Booker said it’s wrong that people have criminal convictions just for smoking pot.

“You can’t get a PELL grant, you can’t get food stamps, you can’t get many business licenses for doing things that three out of the last four presidents admitted to doing publicly," he said.

He said communities of privilege still flaunt their use of marijuana, with no fear of consequences or retribution, but in communities like the Central Ward of Newark (where Booker had been mayor), “you can see the devastation, the punishing impact of young people who get caught up in this web because they’re targeted for marijuana enforcement.”

Booker said the war on drugs has been “one of the greatest assaults on people of color since Jim Crow, and it’s time we undo that damage.”

He said when he grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood in Bergen County, “there was just a different justice system for there compared to kids in Camden, compared to kids in Newark, compared to kids in Passaic.”

He stressed we need to “continue to try to make this nation live up to its promise of being a place of liberty and justice, not for some, not for the wealthy amongst us, not for the privileged amongst us, but liberty and justice for all.”

“We see momentum growing, people who were skeptics or cynics before are being converted, and we’re just gaining momentum, so I’m excited about what’s happening in New Jersey," he said.

 

The telephone news conference also featured an announcement that California Congressional representatives Barbara Lee and Ro Khanna of California were sponsoring a companion Marijuana Justice Act bill in the House.

Booker originally introduced the first version of his marijuana legislation in the U.S. Senate last August.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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