The fact the term “marijuana” is used in the act’s name is enough to showcase over 80 years of the war against the plant. Prior to the 1930s, “marijuana” was known as cannabis and was included in pharmacology books throughout the world. Marijuana was only used to demonize the plant by racially associating it to the influx of migrants fleeing the Mexican Revolution.
Fast Forward 2019…
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., introduced a bill on Thursday to legalize marijuana nationwide as he mounts his presidential campaign.
Co-sponsors of the bill, known as the Marijuana Justice Act, include fellow 2020 Democratic contenders Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Kamala Harris of California and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. Booker first introduced the bill in 2017, but it was not taken up for a vote.
The bill comes as increasing numbers of states are legalizing marijuana on the local level and public opinion has shifted in favor of legalization.
Booker noted that people of different races use cannabis and commit marijuana offenses at similar rates but the law is applied disproportionately.
“Black folks, who are no different in their usage rates, or even the dealing rate, are almost four times more likely to be incarcerated for marijuana,” Booker said. “We do not have equal justice under the law.”
Co-Sponsors Signing On to Booker’s Bill
The Marijuana Justice Act is already receiving widespread support from Booker’s colleagues in the Senate. Sens. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Michael Bennet, and Bernie Sanders, who like Booker have all announced a bid for the 2020 Democratic Party nomination for president, say that they will support the cannabis legalization bill.
“Hundreds of thousands of people are arrested for possession of marijuana every single year,” Sanders said in a statement. “We must end the absurd situation of marijuana being listed as a Schedule 1 drug alongside heroin. It is time to decriminalize marijuana, expunge past marijuana convictions and end the failed war on drugs.”
Harris also released a statement about her sponsorship of the bill.
“Marijuana laws in this country have not been applied equally, and as a result we have criminalized marijuana use in a way that has led to the disproportionate incarceration of young men of color.” she wrote. “Legalizing marijuana is the smart thing to do and the right thing to do to advance justice and equality for every American.”
Both Warren and Harris have previously opposed cannabis legalization but have now indicated support for a change in federal marijuana policy. Two weeks ago, Harris admitted to using cannabis in the past, noting “I did inhale.”
“Listen, I think [it] gives a lot of people joy, and we need more joy,” Harris said.
She even went so far as to claim a sort of cultural imperative to use the herb.
“Half my family’s from Jamaica,” she said. “Are you kidding me?”
But that characterization garnered a swift rebuke from Harris’ father, a Stanford University emeritus professor of economics.
“My dear departed grandmothers … as well as my deceased parents, must be turning in their grave right now to see their family’s name, reputation and proud Jamaican identity being connected, in any way, jokingly or not, with the fraudulent stereotype of a pot-smoking joy seeker and in the pursuit of identity politics,” he wrote to the website Jamaica Global Online.