Cory Booker Knocks Presidential Rivals for Joking About Marijuana

The New Jersey senator says there's nothing funny about pot busts that warp people's lives.


Brian Cahn / Zuma Press / Newscom

Kamala Harris' joke about marijuana and Jamaica did not go over well with her Jamaican father, who criticized her for perpetuating a "fraudulent stereotype." Cory Booker, one of her rivals for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, also was not amused. "We have presidential candidates—senators—bragging about their pot use while there are kids who can't get a job because they have a nonviolent offense," the New Jersey senator said on MSNBC last night.

When asked whether she supports marijuana legalization during an interview on the syndicated radio show The Breakfast Club last month, Harris, a California senator, replied, "Half my family is from Jamaica; are you kidding me?" Asked whether she had ever smoked marijuana, she said, "I have. And I inhaled. I did inhale. It was a long time ago."

The other senator Booker had in mind presumably was Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a presidential contender who appeared on the same show this month and described his experience with cannabis this way: "Didn't do a whole lot for me. My recollection is I nearly coughed my brains out, so it's not my cup of tea."

I'm not sure either of those answers qualifies as "bragging," but Booker's point was that such lighthearted comments tend to obscure the fact that hundreds of thousands of people are still arrested every year on marijuana charges, the vast majority of them for simple possession, and have to bear the burden of those criminal records. He made similar remarks during an appearance in Davenport, Iowa, on Sunday. "We have presidential candidates and congresspeople and senators that now talk about their marijuana use almost as if it's funny," he said. "But meanwhile, in 2017, we had more arrests for marijuana possession in this country than all the violent crime arrests combined."

Booker, a former mayor of Newark, noted that black people are much more likely to be busted for pot than white people, even though they are only slightly more likely to be cannabis consumers. "In Newark, I'm sorry, the margins for error for my kids to experiment with drugs, like people often do, that margin is not there," he said. "And then one kid gets one charge for possession of marijuana for doing things that two of the last three presidents admitted to doing, and what happens to their lives?" Booker, who recently reintroduced a bill that would remove marijuana from the federal government's list of prohibited drugs and expunge federal records of "marijuana use or possession offense[s]," said, "Do not talk to me about legalizing marijuana unless in the same breath you talk to me about expunging the records of the millions of people that are suffering with not being able to find a job."

Booker's emphasis on expungement is commendable, and his knock against Harris is fair enough, given that she not only treated marijuana as a subject of levity during her radio interview but did not embrace legalization until last year and prior to that literally laughed at the idea. But Sanders introduced a legalization bill back in 2015, two years before Booker's Marijuana Justice Act. He supports legalization even though marijuana is not his "cup of tea," and he has expressed concerns similar to Booker's.

"I am seeing in this country too many lives being destroyed for non-violent offenses," Sanders said during a 2015 presidential debate. "We have a criminal justice system that lets CEOs on Wall Street walk away, and yet we are imprisoning or giving jail sentences to young people who are smoking marijuana. I think we have to think through this war on drugs, which has done an enormous amount of damage. We need to rethink our criminal justice system."

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  1. Fair to Sanders or not, give Booker credit on this topic and criminal justice reform in general.

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    2. The other senator Booker had in mind presumably was Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a presidential contender who appeared on the same show this month and described his experience with cannabis this way: “Didn’t do a whole lot for me. My recollection is I nearly coughed my brains out, so it’s not my cup of tea.”

      At least now we know what happened to Bernie’s brains.

  2. Legit question:
    Any RELIABLE sources on number of people arrested for simple possession of marijuana? I wholeheartedly want to end the drug war. But, we need to be to argue facts. And I have heard a number of drug warriors state that most people who get caught on marijuana possession don’t go to jail anymore (some due to legalization, but most due to reducing simple possession of pot to a ticket).

    1. Releasing all non-violent drug offenders would barely dent our prison population. Doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing it, because it absolutely is, but people seem to act like it is a miraculous cure to all our problems. It isn’t.

      1. The BOP says 45.6% of all Federal prisoners are there for drug offenses.

        Maybe you are trying to hide behind “non-violent” but I doubt many of those have been violent against anyone except others in the same profession.

        1. That’s still violence. You wouldn’t say it was okay if a pizza maker shot up the pizzeria across the street because they’re in the same profession.

          1. Well, if pizza is outlawed, that is EXACTLY what would happen! Then if all other job openings that you wanted to apply to, where also outlawed for no good reason, or if you needed 20 years of higher education to get into the profession of allowing people to blow on cheap plastic flutes? There’s hardly any other way to make a living, if you have very-very few other choices? You have NO way of paying for 20 years of higher ed to go into the business of allowing others to blow on cheap plastic flutes?

            Then shooting the pizza guy next door is still an evil thing to do, yes, but it becomes more and more an “understandable” thing to do!

            What, to me, is scarcely understandable at ALL, is that there should even BE an profession called “Giver of permission unto others, to allow them to blow on a cheap plastic flute”!!!

            To find precise details on what NOT to do, to avoid the flute police, please see ? This has been a pubic service, courtesy of the Church of SQRLS!

    2. 65 million need not apply.

      What often starts with simple possession often leads to police harassment and police violence.
      With increased police harassment one can expect to be jailed, vehicles impounded, property confiscated, court dates and associated fines. And of course more police violence and harassment. This leads to people loosing their drivers licenses, jobs and ability to support themselves. With no way to participate in the mainstream economy this forces them into the black market. 65 million Americans is about 1/3 of the adult work force. Have you ever wondered why the official unemployment rate is 4% but the workforce participation rate hovers around 64%? One third need not apply because they will not pass a background check.….._Apply.pdf

      Police have no place in a “free society”, at least not in their present incarnation.
      Abolish the police.

  3. Someone help me figure out how Booker isn’t a total phony.

    1. prove the negative?

    2. Is Warren still your first choice? She’s close to taking over my top spot from Harris since she’s now calling for reparations for slavery and abolishing the Electoral College.

      1. dying to see you OBLsplain reparations

      2. Reparations is painfully obviously a no-go, so I wish they’d stop bringing it up. But who can be against abolishing the EC? In all of our lifetimes the only thing it has accomplished is installing the two worst presidents in history against the popular will. There is no defense of it.

        1. But who can be against abolishing the EC?
          People in 40 states who’d rather not have decisions made for them by California?

          1. Maybe people in California would rather not have decisions made for them by yokels in Ohio.

            1. That’s why they have a successful one-party state government.

            2. Sounds like a good time for secession.

            3. That’s why I wholeheartedly support California leaving the union.

        2. It kept Hillary from winning. And for that everyone should be eternally grateful.

        3. But who can be against abolishing the EC?

          People who understand why it was created in the first place.

          1. None of its defenders do that, though. After all, slavery is illegal.

            It’s all one variation of “it lets Republicans cheat to win, so I’m fer it!” or another.

            1. While it definitely skews toward Republicans, it’s not cheating.

            2. What does the EC have to do with slavery?

        4. Yeah, until the Dems lose an election due to popular vote that could be won via EC. Then they’ll be all for it again.

    3. Not sure what your point is. Are you hunting for a honest pol?

        1. You’d like that wouldn’t you. Everyone masturbating in public. The libertarian dream!

          1. That’s a weird thing you’re thinking about about, Tony.

  4. “Half my family is from Jamaica”

    Where they were literally slave drivers.

    1. They worked for Uber?

  5. I’m 100% with Cory Booker on this.

    bragging about their pot use while there are kids who can’t get a job because they have a nonviolent offense,” the New Jersey senator said on MSNBC last night.

    It was one thing to sheepishly admit smoking marijuana as a “youthful transgression” or hell, even lying about it to avoid scrutiny, but now it’s used as a campaign tactic to show the young people what a hepcat you are, and garner that cherished under-25 vote. And when you presided over an office that prosecuted people for it? Even worse.

    1. “And when you presided over an office that prosecuted people for it? Even worse.”

      That’s what really gets me. Harris can fuck right off. Shes legitimately a horrible person.

  6. Instead of coming up with a passable will and working with bipartisan efforts already in the works, last year Cory wrote a bill that, although I thought was great, had no chance in hell of passing and included a bunch of radical things that could never pass with majority Democrat support, not to mention Republican support. He may talk a good game, but he is as unserious as the rest of them.

    1. Any marijuana legalization bill should have Slavery Reparations tacked on. It’s a win-win.

  7. Rosario Dawson — When you get tired of this square, give me a call and I’ll punk rock yer world.

      1. What do you think?

  8. Dammit do I have to start liking him? Fuck

  9. The Overton window opening from when Bubba Clinton joked that he did not inhale.

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  11. The same thing went on in the 1920s. Prohibition agents (DRY KILLERS) murdered people like so many U.S. pilots bombing Cambodia, and the Methodist White Terror egged them on, calling the murders “justified.” Only when asset forfeiture caused money to flee the banks and the economy collapsed did Americans come to their senses.

  12. expunge federal records of “marijuana use or possession offense[s]”

    Think of the JOBS, both for the expungees and for the *expungers*!

  13. can we cobble together a candidate from Gabbard on war to Booker on the police state to 2012 Beto on the national debt?

    1. Ron Paul 2020?

  14. Call me skeptical, but I don’t think that the majority of those who have been convicted for possession of marijuana:

    a. have experienced a significant dappening of their future employment opportunity.

    b. were users who were simply “experimenting”.

    I agree the drug war is foolish and has produced innumerable victims, but I find Mr. Booker’s comments to be light on substance and heavy on hyperbole.

    1. “a. have experienced a significant dampening of their future employment opportunity.”

      Are you unaware that many employers flat out refuse to hire anyone with a felony conviction?

      1. Did you stop reading at that point?

        If you’re convicted of felony possession, you weren’t just experimenting.

        People who experiment with marijuana and unluckily get busted are only looking at a misdemeanor.

    2. I’ll go one further and call you a skeptical moron.

  15. There isn’t anything funny about psychosis and violent tendencies either, CeeBee.

  16. Yes, I thought was great, had no chance in hell of passing and included a bunch of radical things that could never pass with majority Democrat support…

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