For cannabis professionals working in legal states, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the plant is still illegal at the federal level, and until that changes, the industry is still at risk. While this is certainly a concern for marijuana professionals, there’s a larger social problem that we should not overlook.
The prohibition of Cannabis in the US was almost never about public safety, but rather a legal method to target people of color and the poor. While individual states may allow legal cannabis, anyone possessing or using it can still be prosecuted by the federal government. Many people remain in federal penitentiaries for the nonviolent crimes of growing or distributing cannabis, regardless of whether cannabis has since become legal in their state. The Marijuana Justice Act would serve to rectify this disparity, and help both the US justice system and the cannabis industry in the process.
The Marijuana Justice Act: What is it?
The Marijuana Justice Act (Senate bill 1689, House bill 4815) is a bill that was introduced in late 2017 by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ). The bill’s main focus is on restorative justice for communities and individuals negatively impacted by the “War on Drugs.” This includes people of color and the poor, who are more likely to be arrested and convicted for marijuana offenses. So what’s the bill all about and which politicians are giving it their support? Read on!
What the Marijuana Justice Act Proposes
If passed as currently written, the Marijuana Justice Act would:
- Remove Marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, decriminalizing cannabis throughout the US.
- Cut prison and law enforcement funding in US states with disproportionate numbers of marijuana arrests of low-income individuals and people of color
- Allow groups or individuals to file lawsuits against states that disproportionately arrest/incarcerate low-income individuals and people of color for marijuana offenses
- Prevent deportation for minor marijuana offenses
- Provide an expungement process at the federal level for marijuana offenses
- Provide a process for resentencing of marijuana offenses at the federal level
- Create a “Community Reinvestment Fund” to aid communities impacted by the War on Drugs
Who supports the MJA?
The bill currently has the support of several members in both the House and the Senate. So, who’s in support? Glad you asked!
Senate Sponsors of the MJA:
- Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) (Senator Booker introduced the bill)
- Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)
- Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
- Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT)
- Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA)
- Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
- Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
House Co-Sponsors of the MJA:
- Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-13)*
- Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA-17)*
- Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18)*
- Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN-9)*
- Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC-At Large)*
- Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-IL-1)*
- Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-3)*
- Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL-7)*
- Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO-2)*
- Rep. Hakeem S. Jeffries (D-NY-8)*
- Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA-7)*
- Rep. Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY-9)*
- Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-OH-11)*
- Rep. Donald M. Payne Jr. (D-NJ-10)*
- Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS-2)*
- Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL-24)*
- Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI-2)*
- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI-2)*
- Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD-8)*
- Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ-3)
- Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA-2)
- Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA-9)
- Rep. Luis J. Correa (D-CA-46)
- Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY-14)
- Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr. (D-VA-8)
- Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY-12)
- Rep. Alan S. Lowenthal (D-CA-47)
- Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY-5)
- Rep. Ruben J. Kihuen (D-NV-4)
- Rep. Henry “Hank” C. Johnson Jr. (D-GA-4)
- Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (D-MO-1)
- Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA-37)
- Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL-20)
- Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO-5)
- Rep. Cedric l. Richmond (D-LA-2)
- Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX-30)
- Rep. Janice Schakowsky D. (D-IL-9)
- Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D-MD-4)
- Rep. John Lewis (D-GA-5)
- Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH-13)
- Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ-12)
- Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL-4)
The Marijuana Justice Act’s status is currently “introduced” and it has a long road to go through both chambers of Congress and Presidential approval before it becomes law. Hopefully, politicians will listen to the will of the 68% of US citizens who would like to see cannabis decriminalized at the federal level and make amends for a history of racially-biased arrests and convictions. To learn more about the Marijuana Justice Act you can check out the bill itself (Senate version, House version) as well as the Drug Policy Alliance fact sheet.
What do you think about the Marijuana Justice Act and its future? Join the forum and tell us!
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About the Author
Chris DeWildt is a graduate of Grand Valley State University and Western Kentucky University. He worked in education and publishing for ten years before joining the team at Growers Network.