Gillibrand Becomes Second Senate Cosponsor of Landmark Bill to End Federal Prohibition of Marijuana


Date: Feb. 15, 2018
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Marijuana

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) today became the second U.S senator to cosponsor Senator Cory Booker's (D-NJ) landmark bill to end the federal prohibition on marijuana. She announced her support in a Facebook live earlier today with Booker. The Marijuana Justice Act would remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances, making it legal at the federal level.

"Millions of Americans' lives have been devastated because of our broken marijuana policies, especially in communities of color and low-income communities," said Senator Gillibrand. "Just one minor possession conviction could take away a lifetime of opportunities for jobs, education, and housing, tear families apart, and make people more vulnerable to serving time in jail or prison down the road. The reality that my 14-year-old son would likely be treated very differently from one of his Black or Latino peers if he was caught with marijuana is shameful. Legalizing marijuana is a social justice issue and a moral issue that Congress needs to address, and I'm proud to work with Senator Booker on this legislation to help fix decades of injustice caused by our nation's failed drug policies."

"Legalizing marijuana isn't a matter of if, it's a matter of when," Senator Booker said. "I'm thrilled Senator Gillibrand has joined me in this movement to make our justice system more fair. The War on Drugs has been a war on people, especially people of color and low-income individuals. The Marijuana Justice Act would reverse this trend by not only legalizing marijuana, but by also helping to address the damage the War on Drugs has inflicted on communities disproportionately impacted by marijuana enforcement."

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden became the first Senator to cosponsor the Marijuana Justice Act last year. Last month, Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Ro Khanna (D-CA) introduced a companion measure in the House of Representatives. It has more than 20 cosponsors in the House.

In addition to making marijuana legal at the federal level, the legislation would also incentivize states through federal funds to change their marijuana laws if those laws are 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. 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.