Senator Cory Booker has emerged as a leading headline maker for the first time in this administration after an early attempt to make himself the face of the #Resistance. He has accomplished this by introducing a bill before the senate called the “Marijuana Justice Act of 2017.” This bill would remove both marijuana and tetrahyrdocannabinoid from the schedule of controlled substances. This would essentially decriminalize it with out putting in place any new regulations or stipulations on its use. It also has provisions to expunge marijuana charges from peoples’ criminal records, and to create “community reinvestment funds” managed by the HUD to make amends with communities most hurt by the drug war.
The removal of marijuana from the schedule is long overdue. Without looking at polling, I think it is evident enough in our daily culture that we have reached a threshold where marijuana use is accepted. Pot just doesn’t move the meter on the moral indignation scale for most people anymore. At the risk of losing my figurative libertarian card, there might be reasonable restrictions to be put in place. I’ll leave that to the senate committees, which we should note have not formally seen or marked up this bill yet. This marijuana legalization is not the most note worthy part of this bill though.
What is most interesting I think is the expunging of marijuana related charges from people’s records. This is a provision that only affects marijuana charges and I think this will be a net good. Maybe just maybe however these cases should be reviewed on a case by case basis. It is conceivable that some of these crimes were very real and significant violations that shouldn’t be expunged. It doesn’t seem particularly practical but it should be something that could at least be explored in committee, forgiveness is good but human forgiveness can never be absolute nor should it be when we talk about pursuing justice.
The other provision is this interesting case of the community reinvestment funds. This is a very Washington idea. This is what government does. There is a fund for absolutely everything. This is pork barrel projects reborn and managed by the HUD. These sort of ones specifically also have a long established trend of devolving into left wing advocacy slush funds. This provision needs to be struck and the money instead reallocated to either paying down the federal debt, or since that won’t happen perhaps unconditional block gifts back to the states. I’m confident the states could all find a use for a cut of the marijuana enforcement money.
Finally I question the motivation for this now. I do not know his record on marijuana policy. At the end of the day it may also end up being a moot point. However this just feels like a publicity stunt he can trot back out in the 2020 Democratic primary. While the public attitude has shifted in favor of this I just don’t think that is why he is doing this. Senator Booker is almost definitely doing this to try and stake an early claim on the millennial vote both in the primary and potentially in the general election. It’s a good strategy and the bill would be a net good either way. So props to you Senator Booker, I hope your heart is in the right place with this.