Drug Policy

Cory Booker’s Revolutionary Marijuana Reform Bill Doesn’t Have a Snowball’s Chance in Hell

The most far-reaching marijuana reform bill ever introduced in the Senate is essentially a progressive fantasy.

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Photo credit: Horsma / Hamppuforum

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) today introduced a far-reaching marijuana reform bill that will likely never come up for a vote or obtain a single Republican co-sponsor.

In a universe where it stood even the slightest chance of being passed into law, the Marijuana Justice Act of 2017 would remove marijuana from the federal drug schedule, allow all current federal marijuana prisoners to petition for new sentences, expunge the convictions of former federal marijuana prisoners, withhold federal law enforcement funding from states that do not liberalize their own marijuana laws, and create a community reinvestment fund for communities affected by the drug war, to which Congress will appropriate $500 million a year, every year, until 2040.

Booker's bill essentially forces all of the states to legalize marijuana–or go without federal funding for law enforcement and prisons–and currently has zero co-sponsors.

Booker is not the first person to introduce a federal marijuana reform bill that will never see the Senate (or House) floor. Reps. Ron Paul and Barney Frank introduced the first federal repeal bill way back in 2011. That bill called for the repeal of federal prohibition and for states to set their own marijuana policies. In addition to Paul and Frank, there were four Democratic co-sponsors.

Booker addressed the incoherence of maintaining federal prohibition while states forge ahead with various legalization schemes during a Facebook Live event at 12:30 p.m. today. He decried the cruelty of denying veterans an alternative to prescription drugs, and outlined the disparate impact marijuana laws have on communities of color.

His reasons for reforming federal marijuana laws are as good as his legislation is bad.

Congress is closer to revisiting marijuana's place in Schedule I than it has ever been. Just last week, Rep. Trey Gowdy, a Republican congressman from South Carolina and a former prosecutor, grilled the interim director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy as to why marijuana is in a more restrictive schedule than cocaine and amphetamines.

But if you wanted to craft a bill that would alienate Republicans in Washington, D.C., and governors and state legislators of both parties across the country, you'd be hard pressed to surpass the Marijuana Justice Act of 2017.

Booker's bill would ensure the federal government would provide nothing for prison maintenance, construction, or staffing to any state in which the percentage of minorities arrested or convicted for a marijuana-related offense exceeded the percentage of minorities in the overall state population. And reduce federal funding for state and local law enforcement by 10 percent.

Recidivism reduction and drug rehab funding would be exempt from this rule, but you'd need an army of Government Accountability Office inspectors to keep state facilities compliant. As with equitable sharing reviews, inspectors would be able to tackle only a few facilities at a time, and only several years after the fact. (In the alternate universe where this bill gets so much as a committee hearing, congressional delegates from states likely to be affected strangle this provision before lunch.)

And then there's the $500 million-per-year Community Reinvestment Fund, some of which would be diverted from non-compliant states. The rest would simply be appropriated. Booker chose not to include a federal excise tax on marijuana sales. (Could it be that this is not a serious bill?)

The fund would pay for reentry services, job training, and "expenses related to the expungement of convictions," as well as "public libraries, community centers, and programs and opportunities dedicated to youth."

Library funding in a marijuana reform bill doesn't fly, even on Earth 2.

The most reasonable provision in the bill is re-sentencing for current federal pot prisoners. When the U.S. Sentencing Commission changed the federal sentencing guidelines for drug offenses in April 2014, it voted later that year to allow more than 40,000 prisoners to petition for shorter sentences, in line with what they would've received had they been sentenced under the new guidelines.

Congress had the opportunity to intervene, but didn't. The Sentencing Commission could do something like that again, but they wouldn't be able help federal pot prisoners serving mandatory minimums. Only Congress can do that, and thus far, it hasn't even when the opportunity presented itself.

After passage of the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010, which effectively increased the quantity of crack-cocaine required to trigger a federal mandatory minimum, criminal justice reformers encouraged Congress to make those changes retroactive. Seven years later, neither the Senate nor the House has come close to doing so.

The most viable proposal in Booker's bill isn't viable.

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57 responses to “Cory Booker’s Revolutionary Marijuana Reform Bill Doesn’t Have a Snowball’s Chance in Hell

  1. …and create a community reinvestment fund for communities affected by the drug war, to which Congress will appropriate $500 million a year, every year, until 2040.

    Ohhh! So close to being a libertarian. (Or maybe this is libertarian; I can’t tell anymore.) And Earth 2 was a fine show that deserved a second season!

    1. I can’t wait until the war on terror is as successful as the war on drugs in 30 years.

  2. It’s almost like they do this on purpose.

    “C’mon guys I gave you a racial-quota bill that costs eleventy trillion dollars and this is all the thanks I get?!”

  3. If by reform you mean bringing more reasonable regulation, then this bill misses the mark by a mile. The rumor is that Booker is doing this to show he had the chops to run for President. Well, he is sure stupid enough. Hey, kids let’s legalize weed and create more government in the process. Sounds like Booker may have smoked a bit too much.

    1. Pot does make one stupid. Maybe that’s Booker’s problem.

  4. Brave McCain will help pass this bill.

    1. I wonder if he’ll use it to help with his appetite when he is suffering through chemo-induced nausea.

    2. I am torn between wanting that sorry SOB to suffer a long time, and just wanting his miserable ass off the planet.

  5. Tell me more about how we need to team up with progressives to achieve our long sought after civil liberties.

    1. Jeff Sessions vs Cory Booker. God my head wants to explode. I don’t know I just hope the whole system implodes and I become the king of my own mud hole.

  6. That’s some good-lookin’ weed.

  7. Booker’s bill essentially forces all of the states to legalize marijuana–or go without federal funding for law enforcement and prisons–and currently has zero co-sponsors.

    I honestly don’t understand this. Why did the bill have to be this sweeping?

    Also, how does co-sponsoring work, does a co-sponsor have to be from the opposing party, or can co-sponsoring come from any other lawmaker? If it can come from any lawmaker, why are republicans being singled out as refusing to cosponsor the bill. It might be more interesting to ask why there are no Democratic co-sponsors.

    I will say this bill is excellent and has teeth, but for DC politics and politicians, it seems a little too sweeping for reality.

    1. I think it’s more the bill being singled out as having failed to attract any republican support. Which you probably won’t get on a drug reform bill that ignores federalism so thoroughly. Earlier reform bills like the Paul/Frank one mentioned limited themselves (as far as I know) to addressing federal government policy.

      1. Yeah, I spoke a little too soon- after reading the details of the bill more carefully, all the shit tacked onto this bill make it a pretty screwball piece of legislation. I do like how the central thesis is a full-throated rollback of the drug war as it relates to marijuana policy.

        Fur fun time reading, here’s a Salon article from 2013 denouncing the meaningless gesture of getting ‘co-sponsors’.

    2. I will say this bill is excellent and has teeth, but for DC politics and politicians, it seems a little too sweeping for reality.

      I’m not too keen on the $500 million dollars a year in new spending for “communities affected by the drug war.”

      Also, one could easily argue that the withholding of funds to states that refuse to liberalize their own marijuana laws is anti-federalist/ state’s rights (I know, I know: RACIST DOG WHISTLE).

      Why the fuck he couldn’t have just stopped after “remove marijuana from the federal drug schedule, allow all current federal marijuana prisoners to petition for new sentences, expunge the convictions of former federal marijuana prisoners” I don’t know. As Rhywun pointed out above, it’s almost like this is designed to deliberately fail.

      1. I’m not too keen on the $500 million dollars a year in new spending for “communities affected by the drug war.”

        Me neither, but change that to “individuals” and I’m not entirely opposed, as war reparations are a thing. I would view it the same as giving someone just compensation for wrongful incarceration. I mean, if someone not only lost years of life and became basically unemployable due to criminal record, I’d say they are owed something.

        1. Grammar correction: but also became basically…

  8. , grilled the interim director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy as to why marijuana is in a more restrictive schedule than cocaine and amphetamines.

    I suspect because cocaine and amphetamines are the drug of choice for your average congress-critter.

    1. I wonder how many of them have Adderall prescriptions?

      At this point, the scheduling of marijuana seems to be mostly because the DEA refuses to follow the law as written. There is no reasonable way to claim that it meets the schedule I criteria at this point.

      1. When policy became a jobs program, that’s when America was truly fucked.

        1. Amen. When prohibition was repealed, not a single liquor cop was laid off. They switched seamlessly to being drug (marihuana) cops.

          Figure the same thing will happen when weed is legalized, they’ll declare opiate the Real Problem, the Real Problem All Along, put everyone on that and ask for a big budget increase to hire more.

          1. Figure the same thing will happen when weed is legalized, they’ll declare opiate the Real Problem, the Real Problem All Along, put everyone on that and ask for a big budget increase to hire more.\

            Opiates and “human trafficking,” by which of course they really mean any and all prostitution.

    2. Flinging s–t against the wall is a time-tested technique for politicians who want attention.

  9. People still blaming the Republicans, yet the biggest drug warriors in the country are still Democrats. Sessions ain’t got nothing on Biden when it comes to the size of their anti-drug testicles. And both have to take a back seat to Feinstein.

    1. Eric Holder spent most of his career vehemently fighting the Drug War. Luckily, he eased up in the end, but it was very reluctantly and basically the very least he could do.

      1. When I say “fighting the Drug War”, I mean he was spearheading policies that are seen as racist and horrible today.

        1. And as we all know, a Democrat being imperfect on an issue to the smallest degree is worse than fucking Jeff Sessions.

    2. The democrats are going to have a harder time unwinding themselves from the drug war than Republicans. Republicans stick to the drug war because they actually believe drugs are harming the community, and fighting them is the only realistic response.

      Democrats are stuck with the drug war because they actually believe the government has a say in your personal health choices.

      1. Democrats are stuck with the drug war because they actually believe the government has a say in your personal health choices.

        I think that’s an excellent point. Republicans are turning because the policy as they understood it has failed. The Democrats were never as passionate about it, but also still don’t question the basic premises, so we’re not seeing any real movement from them.

        1. The primary opposition to the drug war from Democrats as I can discern it is this: the war on drugs disproportionately hurts minority communities. The basic premise of the drug war, on the other hand, seems to be consistent with Democratic principles.

      2. The Republicans I know trying to legalize marijuana want to really legalize it. Treat it just as tobacco or alcohol. The Democrats I know trying to “legalize” it either want to tax the crap out of it, or just decriminalize it so affluent white liberals don’t have to spend inconvenient weekends in the county jail.

        1. And to be fair, I consider Cory Booker to be an “affluent white liberal” because that’s the circle he has chosen to travel in.

      3. Jesus you people are more partisan than I am. You’re writing completely nonsensical things to maintain your partisanship.

        1. Democrats on health.

          Democrats on health.

          In Tim Farron’s Liberal Democrat’s manifesto, the party promised to:
          Stop advertising junk food to kids, restricting the marketing of junk food to children by putting in place a 9pm watershed. This would block advertisers from flogging unhealthy products during the peak hours that kids watch TV.
          Make healthy food choices easier, by implementing a clear traffic-light labelling system that ensures we can all understand information on calories, fat, sugar and salt in restaurant and takeaway food items.
          Make sugar reduction mandatory. Following Public Health England’s recommendation in March 2017 that sugar reductions be made mandatory, the party would introduce mandatory sugar reduction targets for food and drink producers.

        2. Democrats on health choices.

          More Democrats on health choices.

          Last week, two Democratic lawmakers, Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, sent the latest of several letters to the F.D.A. commissioner, Margaret Hamburg, urging the agency to take action on energy drinks.

          I can do this all fucking day.

          The problem, is you believe your own rhetoric. You believe that you can stand in control of every aspect of the daily lives of american citizens, banning, scolding, taxing and regulating everything they put in their bodies, while claiming some kind of moral high ground on the drug war.

          Democrats are the drug war.

          1. But they’re better on the issue than fucking Jeff Sessions. The problem with you people is you’d rather live your whole life seeing no positive change than attempt to achieve positive change incrementally.

            1. Doing anything is better than fucking Jeff Sessions.

        3. Nonsensical things to maintain partisanship? Hardly. It’s basic to being libertarian. It is absolutely none of the government’s business what I put in my own body of my own free will.

          Democrat or Republican, you’re a statist and slaver, so you can’t grasp the basic idea of leaving people alone.

    3. I think it’s because while the mainstream of both parties are basically the same, the number of Republicans advocating decriminalization has been vanishingly small compared to the occasional Democrats, and the Republicans (especially Reagan and Bush 1) have tended to leverage Drug War propaganda and express much more passion about it than Democrats typically do.

      But I think that’s changing now, since the Republicans who’ve been getting on board seem actually serious about it, whereas Booker’s bill is clearly designed to fail.

      1. That’s the thing. The Republicans advocating for these things are adamant about getting it done and really believe in it, which is why they are willing to break the general party line.. Democrats are doing it because it’s cool and gets them young votes and carries no risk. I don’t think many are actually serious.

  10. the Marijuana Justice Act of 2017 would remove marijuana from the federal drug schedule, allow all current federal marijuana prisoners to petition for new sentences, expunge the convictions of former federal marijuana prisoners, withhold federal law enforcement funding from states that do not liberalize their own marijuana laws, and create a community reinvestment fund for communities affected by the drug war, to which Congress will appropriate $500 million a year, every year, until 2040.

    He had me right up until the $500 dollars a year worth of new graft, cronyism, and corruption. Fuck you, cut spending.

  11. $500 million here, $500 million there, pretty soon you’re talking about REAL money.

    1. The 1980s called, it wants its pithy political quip back.

      1. Holy shit, Dirksen apparently said* that in the 60s.

        *Attribution, there’s dispute that he actually ever uttered those words.

  12. the Marijuana Justice Act of 2017 would remove marijuana from the federal drug schedule, allow all current federal marijuana prisoners to petition for new sentences, expunge the convictions of former federal marijuana prisoners

    full stop, dummies.

    also, nice nug.

  13. You people seem more interested in coming up with excuses for trashing on a Democrat than legalizing weed.

  14. Let’s cut to the chase. The war on drugs is not authorized by the US Constitution.

    No where does it state government can tell you what you can or can’t put into your own body and grow on your own property.

    Only through the demented reasoning of FDR’s commie court could this ever pass communist muster with their reading of the ‘commerce clause.’

    And their communist reason is that the government can do whatever it wants to as long as it uses some bull shit communist reason which include for the communist good, and throw in some bull shit communist legal reason with some regulations and fees and a marijuana tax stamp that if you try to buy you’ll get arrested by governments agents approval by Joe Biden, who coined the term ‘drug czar’ after watching the movie Reefer Madness.

    Democrat progressive socialist Joe Biden knew government must do more to warn youth of the dangerous marijuana plant.

    For this, Barack Obama anointed Joe Biden to be his Vice President.

  15. You ever wonder if the progs would be able to bring along more conservatives on this one if they embraced our arguments? Instead of saying it’s not as bad as other drugs, or that prohibition impacts minorities disproportionately, or that marijuana secretly cures every disease known to man, maybe start with the rather simple moral argument that people shouldn’t be locked in a cage for what they choose to do to their own body?

    Maybe then you wouldn’t be stuck debating the Jeff Sessions of the world over whether or not good people smoke marijuana, or whether or not it makes you dumb. This is not a debate that needs numbers and studies. It’s whether or not you should be locked in a cage. Once it’s clear that’s what the other side is arguing for, I think they’ll completely lose the battle of public opinion, and maybe we’ll have a small glimmer of hope to end prohibition on everything else

    Of course, the left probably thinks something like heroin is “too far” so that’s probably why they’re taking such a needlessly complicated approach

    1. Your argument is “Gimme everything I want, right now!” And you have like one person in Congress. Hmm.

      1. I have no people in Congress. Although according to you, I probably have 52 and 240, plus a president

    2. But even Jeff Sessions will say people shouldn’t be locked up for smoking pot, only for selling it, i.e. “business”.

  16. Booker proposed his version of the Obamacare “repeals” Republicans claimed to support right until the moment that it could’ve passed.

    If there was a chance it’d pass, he’d oppose this bill.

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    THAT image looks nice!!

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