A New Bill has been introduced in the Senate by New Jersey Democratic Senator and presidential candidate, Cory Booker and Democratic California Representatives Barbara Lee and Ro Khanna, to legalize marijuana nationwide. It has been called the Marijuana Justice Act of 2019 and it plans to not only remove the drug from the list of all controlled substances but also remove any obstacles present for purveyors and vendors all over the US. Even presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Bernie Sanders have co-sponsored this bill. It could be another great step towards tackling the war on drugs.
The bill does not only legalize marijuana nationwide. It also expunges any criminal records of those who had previously been charged because of possession of marijuana. This Bill also calls for anyone who is currently incarcerated due to possession to petition and call for re-sentencing, effective immediately. There will be job training given to those people who have been convicted so that they can enter the world without any major problems.
There have been many supporters of the Bill. The people of the US are quite aware of the destructive effects that the prohibition of Marijuana has – especially, on oppressed groups in the country. In most cases, non-violent users of marijuana are prosecuted.
While talking about the Bill, Lee, in a statement to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), stated that the Act is trying to repair many of the damages that the prohibition brought upon the socially oppressed and disenfranchised groups. It also resulted in cyclical incarceration as well as over-criminalization. If this Bill is passed, then there will be youth development, job re-entry, and other facilities provided to the convicts.
Booker is quite aware of the effects of Marijuana and this is not the first time that he is fighting to bring about reforms in the laws. He had previously introduced another version called the Marijuana Justice Act in 2017. He remarked that changing the laws related to such drugs was the only way that justice could be brought in favor of wrongly-convicted criminals. According to his tweet, the War on Drugs has actually been a war on people, especially, people who are poor, people with mental illnesses, and the people of color. The present drug laws have failed to give justice to these people and it needs to be reversed.
There is an ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) study that backs up Cory Brooker’s claim. Between the years 2001 and 2010, there has been about 8 million marijuana-based offenses in the USA. About 88% of it was because of possession. Plus, the study showed that Black people were about 3.7 times more likely to get arrested for possession, despite similar rates of use being reported among the white population.
California was the first state that legalized marijuana to be used for medical purposes back in 1996. After that, about 30 states legalized the use of medicinal marijuana. On top of that, Washington D.C, along with ten other states, have made to move to legalize marijuana almost completely, allowing 21-year old adults and above to use it for recreational purposes. But it is illegal as per the federal law. Plus, a report published in 2018 shows that in the states where marijuana is legalized, people of color are still arrested at a much greater rate than the white population.
If we take the opinion of the general public, there is a positive attitude towards such a legalization process. According to a poll by Pew Research Center, about 62 percent of the population in the US is favoring the legalization. 74 percent of them are millennials.
The Political Director of NORML praised the act in a statement which showed that the current prohibition is not only burdening taxpayers financially, but it is also impeding research on the medicinal properties of marijuana, on top of impacting the colored communities. Due to racism, the Marijuana Act that currently exists isolates people of color and they have to face the brunt of it. According to him, it is now time to make a change so that all these issues are tackled and marijuana could finally be used for scientific purposes too.
The legalization of marijuana can be a great step for all people. Now, we just have to keep our fingers crossed and hope for this bill to get the green light.
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