U.S. representatives Barbara Lee and Rep. Ro Khanna, both Democrats from California, introduced the Marijuana Justice Act on Wednesday, calling for nationwide legalization. Booker introduced the Senate version in August.
“This legislation will end this destructive War on Drugs” Lee said in a conference call on Wednesday, calling the bill an “essential step” to help people impacted by marijuana laws.
The bill would remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances, where it has been since 1970, alongside heroin, ecstasy and LSD. That move would end federal prohibition and leave it up to states to forge their own marijuana policies.
Lee called the legislation, “a bold proposal to reverse decades of discriminatory drug enforcement and to bring federal marijuana policy in line with the wishes of the American people.”
The Marijuana Justice Act, the bill will create a $500 million community reinvestment fund that will limelight on job training for the nascent cannabis industry and will prioritize communities that have suffered a disproportionate number of marijuana arrests for recreational-sales licenses.
The bill also includes recourse for people affected by marijuana laws. Those who have been convicted of low-level marijuana possession would be eligible to have their records expunged, while people serving time for marijuana crimes would be able to have their sentences reviewed by the court.
The bill calls for a community reinvestment fund, which would pay for programs like job training, and public libraries in communities that have been adversely impacted by marijuana laws. It would also cut federal funding to states that have racially disproportionate arrest rates on marijuana crimes.
According to sources, data from the American Civil Liberties Union shows that across the country blacks are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, despite similar usage rates.
“Our country’s drug laws are badly broken and need to be fixed,” Booker said when he introduced his bill last year. “They don’t make our communities any safer – instead they divert critical resources from fighting violent crimes, tear families apart, unfairly impact low-income communities and communities of colour, and waste billions in taxpayer dollars each year.”
The bill’s introduction in the U.S. House comes as New Jersey is debating statewide legalization. New Gov. Phil Murphy has said he supports legalizing weed and state Sen. Nicholas Scutari recently reintroduced a legalization bill to the state Legislature. Other bills are expected to be introduced in the coming weeks.
While the House bill already has twelve Democratic co-sponsors, no Republicans have signed on to either the Senate or House version yet.
Marijuana is legal for adult use in eight states, and a further 29 states have some form of medical marijuana legalization on the books.
Sources report, according to a recent Gallup poll, marijuana legalization is a bipartisan issue : 60% of Americans and 51% of Republicans support it.