(CNSNews.com) - During a speech at the Netroots National annual conference in New Orleans, La., on Friday, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) touted his efforts to decriminalize marijuana on the federal level and expunge the records of people who’ve been arrested for marijuana possession.
“I reject the normalcy that says we have more marijuana arrests that we had in 2016 than violent crime arrests. That’s why I introduced the Marijuana Justice Act that not just legalizes marijuana on the federal level - don’t talk about legalization unless you’re talking about expunging the records of people that have been tried,” Booker said, of his bill which was introduced last year.
A House companion bill sponsored by Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee and Ro Khanna both of California was also introduced.
The Marijuana Justice Act not only removes marijuana from the list of federally controlled substances and expunges the records of those convicted of marijuana use or possession, it also proposes creating a $500 million community reinvestment fund focused on job training in the cannabis industry.
According to the bill, “Amounts in the Fund shall be available to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to establish a grant program to reinvest in communities most affected by the war on drugs, which shall include providing grants to impacted communities for programs such as -- job training; reentry services; expenses related to the expungement of convictions; public libraries; community centers; programs and opportunities dedicated to youth; the special purpose fund discussed below; and health education programs.”
The bill would also cut federal funding for law enforcement and prison construction in states with disproportionate arrests or convictions of low-income residents or people of color for marijuana-related offenses. That money would go to the community reinvestment fund.
In his speech, Booker also complained about inequality in the justice system, especially when it comes to marijuana possession and use.
“You all know we have different justice systems in this country. We’ve had sort of defacto marijuana legalization, because there’s many communities people aren’t afraid. They have no worries. In fact, there’s no difference in America between blacks and whites for using marijuana or smoking marijuana, but if you’re black, you’re almost four times as likely to be arrested for it if you’re black and poor or poor period,” he said.
Booker also called for “Medicare for all” and declared that health care was a “right.”
“I reject the normalcy of our nation that we have such savage divides in access to health care. I reject that normalcy by saying health care is a right in this country, and we should have Medicare for all,” the senator said.
Booker called it “abnormal” that current U.S. immigration laws allow for illegal alien families to be separated at the border and that people with children, grandchildren or spouses that are American citizens are being deported.
“Yes, we seem to say it was abnormal for people to be separated, families to be separated, children taken away from families at the border. We seem to say that that was abnormal as a country, but here were are in a nation that all across our country, our immigration laws are having people separated from their families, being threatened with deportation, people with children that are American citizens, grandchildren American citizens, spouses that are American citizens being separated,” he said.
The senator also decried the treatment of LGBT Americans who now have the ability to marry but “could be fired from their job with no legal recourse.”
“I reject the normalcy in our country that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender Americans in the majority of states, they may now be able to marry and put it online the celebration of their love, but in the majority of states, they could be fired from their job with no legal recourse. That is the normal that I reject, and that’s why I support and have sponsored the Equality Act that would end that in America,” Booker said.