Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) recently announced that he is co-sponsoring the Marijuana Justice Act of 2017 (“the Booker Bill”), a bill previously introduced by New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. The Booker Bill seeks to decriminalize marijuana across the nation and penalizes states with high arrest and incarceration rates with respect to marijuana related crimes. The Booker Bill also seeks to establish a “Community Reinvestment Fund”, a fund comprised of monies not provided to states in violation of the disproportionate arrest rates. The Community Reinvestment Fund will be used to provide funds to “reinvest in communities most affected by the war on drugs” and includes grants for job training, public libraries, community centers and other programs designed to enhance the community. The Booker Bill proposes spending at least $500,000,000 for each fiscal year.
Senator Wyden joined Senator Booker on a Facebook Live video to discuss the thrust of Bill and his co-sponsorship. His position echoed Senator Booker’s, which was that both Senators viewed the Booker Bill as a vehicle to combat the disproportionate impact of the war on drugs on minority communities.
The Booker Bill is not likely to succeed. Senator Wyden is only the second co-sponsor, after the Booker Bill was originally proposed in August of 2017. Similar bills seeking major marijuana reform have not gained much traction. Nevertheless, efforts such as those by Senators Booker and Wyden begin a national conversation on the issue of cannabis reform.
The Booker Bill will not likely have any material impact on New Jersey’s push to legalize recreational adult use cannabis. We will provide updates if the Booker Bill gains additional co-sponsors.