U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) issued the following statement ahead of the House Judiciary Committee's Wednesday markup of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019 (MORE). Booker's Marijuana Justice Act, originally introduced in 2017, was the first congressional bill to incorporate record expungement and community reinvestment with marijuana legalization. The MORE Act also includes a Booker-provision to remove marijuana from list of deportable offenses.
"After years of work in the Senate, our efforts to pair marijuana legalization with expungement and reinvestment in the communities most harmed by the War on Drugs have finally led us to today's critical mark-up. The war on drugs has systematically targeted people of color and the poor, harmed job prospects and access to housing for our nation's most vulnerable communities, and destroyed countless lives. The House Judiciary Committee's decision to advance this bill is a significant step toward righting these wrongs and healing the wounds of decades of injustice."
Background on Booker's leadership on issues of marijuana and criminal justice:
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. He is the author of the landmark Marijuana Justice Act, which would end the federal prohibition on marijuana, automatically expunge the records of those convicted of federal marijuana use and possession crimes, and reinvest resources into the communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs through a community fund. Since introducing the bill in 2017, Booker has garnered support from Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Ed Markey (D-MA).
In the Senate, Booker was an outspoken critic of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions' effort to revive the failed War on Drugs. More recently, he pressed Attorney General William Barr on his stance on marijuana legalization and the rescission of the Cole memo, winning a commitment from Barr to leave states alone that have legalized marijuana.
In addition to the Marijuana Justice Act, Booker is the co-author of the bipartisan CARERS Act, which would allow patients to access medical marijuana in states where it's legal without fear of federal prosecution, and the bipartisan REDEEM Act, which would allow nonviolent drug offenders to petition a court to seal and expunge their drug offenses, while automatically sealing, and in some cases expunging, the nonviolent records of juveniles. These reforms would reduce a major barrier that formerly incarcerated individuals face when attempting to rejoin society. He is also a cosponsor of the Fair Chance Act, which prohibits the federal government and federal contractors from asking about the criminal history of a job applicant prior to a conditional offer of employment. Earlier this year, the Fair Chance Act passed out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the House Oversight and Government and Reform Committee. In June, Booker introduced legislation to remove marijuana from list of deportable offenses.