Washington, DC — Today, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) co-sponsored the Marijuana Justice Act, legislation which would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and incentivize states to end the racially disparate criminalization of marijuana consumers.
Originally introduced by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), the Marijuana Justice Act is the first piece of legislation that not only would deschedule marijuana from the CSA, but would provide expungement of criminal records for those with federal possession charges. Furthermore, the Marijuana Justice Act is the first bill to end cannabis prohibition that has companion legislation in both chambers of Congress, with Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) as the lead sponsor in the House of Representatives.
NORML Political Director Justin Strekal stated:
“Leaders in the Democratic Party are increasingly recognizing that leading the charge on legalization is not only good policy, but good politics. The constituencies which the party claims to stand for are the ones who have most felt the weight and lifelong consequences of marijuana criminalization.
“With Senator Sanders cosponsoring the Marijuana Justice Act alongside Senators Booker and Gillibrand, it’s time for the party to speak with one voice that they will legalize marijuana and expunge the criminal convictions of the millions who are being held back from achieving both employment and the American dream.
“The ongoing enforcement of cannabis prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, impedes legitimate scientific research into the plant’s medicinal properties, and disproportionately impacts communities of color. The Marijuana Justice Act would be the sensible, moral, and rational way to end failed policy of marijuana criminalization”
The bills, S. 1689 and HR 4815 would (1) remove marijuana from the US Controlled Substances Act, thereby ending the federal criminalization of cannabis; (2) incentivize states to mitigate existing and ongoing racial disparities in state-level marijuana arrests; (3) expunge federal convictions specific to marijuana possession; (4) allow individuals currently serving time in federal prison for marijuana-related violations to petition the court for resentencing; (5) and create a community reinvestment fund to invest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs.
Thirty states, Washington, DC and the US territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have enacted legislation specific to the physician-authorized use of cannabis, while an estimated 63 million Americans now reside in jurisdictions where anyone over the age of 21 may possess cannabis legally. Voters overwhelmingly support these policy changes. According to a 2017 Quinnipiac University poll, 59 percent of Americans support full marijuana legalization and 71 percent believe that states, not the federal government, should set marijuana policy.
To date, these statewide regulatory programs are operating largely as voters and politicians intended. The enactment of these policies have not negatively impacted workplace safety, crime rates, traffic safety, or youth use patterns. They have stimulated economic development and created hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue. Specifically, a 2017 report estimates that 123,000 Americans are now working full-time in the cannabis industry. Tax revenues from states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington now exceed initial projections. Further, numerous studies have identified an association between cannabis access and lower rates of opioid use, abuse, hospitalizations, and mortality.
NORML’s mission is to move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults, and to serve as an advocate for consumers to assure they have access to high quality marijuana that is safe, convenient, and affordable