Skip to Content

Harris Becomes Fourth Senate Cosponsor of Landmark Bill to End Federal Prohibition of Marijuana

Marijuana Justice Act seeks to reverse decades of policy that has disproportionately impacted communities of color, low-income communities

May 22, 2018
Photo

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) today became the fourth U.S. senator to cosponsor Senator Cory Booker’s (D-NJ) landmark bill to end the federal prohibition on marijuana. The Marijuana Justice Act would remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances, making it legal at the federal level.

“Right now in this country people are being arrested, being prosecuted, and end up spending time in jail or prison all because of their use of a drug that otherwise should be considered legal,” Senator Harris said. “Making marijuana legal at the federal level is the smart thing to do, it’s the right thing to do. I know this as a former prosecutor and I know it as a senator.”

“The War on Drugs hasn’t been a War on Drugs, it’s been a war on people – disproportionately people of color and low-income individuals,” Senator Booker said. “It’s time to not only legalize marijuana in our states, but to expunge the records of those who have been carrying the burdens of past convictions for too long. I’m thrilled to have my colleague Senator Harris join me in this pursuit of equal justice under the law.”

 

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) became the first Senator to cosponsor the Marijuana Justice Act last year, followed by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in February, and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in April. In addition to these cosponsors, Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Ro Khanna (D-CA) introduced a companion measure in the House of Representatives earlier this year that has 35 cosponsors.

In addition to removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances, the bill would incentivize states through federal funds to change their marijuana laws if those laws were shown to have a disproportionate effect on low-income individuals and/or people of color. The bill is retroactive and would apply to those already serving time behind bars for marijuana-related offenses, providing for a judge’s review of marijuana sentences.

Specifically, the Marijuana Justice Act will:

  • Remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances, making it legal at the federal level;

  • Incentivize states through federal funds to change their marijuana laws if marijuana in the state is illegal and the state disproportionately arrests or incarcerates low-income individuals or people of color for marijuana-related offenses;

  • Automatically expunge federal marijuana use and possession crimes;

  • Allow an individual currently serving time in federal prison for marijuana use or possession crimes to petition a court for a resentencing;

  • Create a community reinvestment fund to reinvest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs and allow those funds to be invested in the following programs:

  •  
    • Job training;

    • Reentry services;

    • Expenses related to the expungement of convictions;

    • Public libraries;

    • Community centers;

    • Programs and opportunities dedicated to youth; and

    • Health education

Booker has seen the effects of our broken marijuana laws first-hand, dating back to his time as a tenant lawyer, City Council member, and Mayor of Newark, where he created the city’s first office of prisoner re-entry to help formerly incarcerated individuals re-integrate into their communities.

In the Senate, Booker has been an outspoken critic of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ effort to revive the failed War on Drugs. In addition to the Marijuana Justice Act, last year, he re-introduced the bipartisan CARERS Act, which would allow patients to access medical marijuana in states where it’s legal without fear of federal prosecution. He is also co-author of bills to restrict the use of juvenile solitary confinement and reform the way women are treated behind bars.