‘Single Most Far-Reaching’ Pot Bill Will Punish States With ‘Bad Marijuana Laws’

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey is proposing what pot advocates say is the “single most far-reaching” marijuana legislation ever submitted in Congress.

Booker, the junior senator from New Jersey, is filing a bill Tuesday that would alter the longstanding policy of marijuana prohibition at the federal level. The legislation would allow the federal government to punish states with “discriminatory enforcement” of marijuana laws by withholding federal funds to states found to have racially disproportionate marijuana arrests and incarceration rates.

The legislation, dubbed The Marijuana Justice Act of 2017, also removes the classification of pot as a Schedule I drug alongside narcotics like heroin. Additionally, Booker wants to force all states to expunge current convictions for marijuana charges and give residents who have been the subject of alleged marijuana discrimination the power to sue.

“This is the single most far-reaching marijuana bill that’s ever been filed in either chamber of Congress,” Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “More than just getting the federal government out of the way so that states can legalize without DEA harassment, this new proposal goes even further by actually punishing states that have bad marijuana laws. Polls increasingly show growing majority voter support for legalization, so this is something that more senators should be signing on to right away.”

Medical marijuana is legal in 29 states and Washington, D.C., where it is also legal for recreational use. Nearly 20 percent of Americans now have access to legal pot, however, finding support for such sweeping reforms may prove difficult. The proposal will likely also face push-back from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a staunch opponent of state legalization efforts.

Republicans recently joined with Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee to deny Attorney General Jeff Sessions the power to interfere with state marijuana laws. The bipartisan rebuke came after numerous attempts by Sessions to petition Congress to give the Department of Justice power to crack down on state legalization laws.

The committee overwhelmingly approved the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment July 20, which originally passed in 2014 and prevents the DOJ from using federal funds to prosecute individuals in states with medical legalization.

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