New Jersey Senator Cory Booker declared his candidacy for President of the United States last week and, in a first for the Oval Office, he made legalizing marijuana a major part of his platform for the campaign.
Booker called into the Tom Joyner Morning Show on Friday to announce publicly for the first time that he is running for president. From there, Booker jumped into a slate of issues facing America today, including marijuana legalization, through the lens of his politics of optimism.
When asked by the hosts about how he planned to further his criminal justice reform work with the House and Senate, Booker called mass incarceration “a cancer on the soul of our country” and spoke named drug policy reform as a part of the solution.
“[Reform] means changing our drug laws, ending prohibition against marijuana which has led to black folks, who are no different in their usage rates or dealing rates, but are almost four times as likely to be incarcerated for marijuana. We do not have equal justice under the law,” said Booker. “We should show the world what the land of the free can really do when empowering people, not throwing them in holes and cages.”
A Noteworthy Pro-Pot Record
Booker is by no means new to being pro-cannabis, like some of his peers in the Senate, and is among the most progressive legislators on the topic in U.S. history. Most recently, he authored the Marijuana Justice Act, which would remove cannabis from the list of controlled substances in the U.S. if passed. In 2017, he called on former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to not interfere with state-compliant medical marijuana operations, in a letter also signed by fellow presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
And as then-mayor of Newark, New Jersey, he hosted an Ask Me Anything on Reddit and dove into the topic of drug policy back in the summer of 2012.
“The so-called War on Drugs has not succeeded in making significant reductions in drug use, drug arrests or violence,” wrote Booker, replying to a question. “We are pouring huge amounts of our public resources into this current effort that are bleeding our public treasury and unnecessarily undermining human potential.”
Booker went on to elaborate on marijuana specifically.
“I believe too many of my young people are being unfairly punished and chewed up by the criminal justice system over small amounts of marijuana. Their lives are being severely and adversely affected by the sheer number of arrests and incarcerations we are making. When a young person enters a system, it often leaves them worse off than other lower cost interventions would,” wrote Booker. “My team here in Newark [is trying to pilot alternative programs that] will help prevent kids from getting swallowed by the system AND help them when they are released if preventative measures fail. Not to mention, programs such as these save taxpayer dollars… they are so much cheaper than our current rush to incarcerate.”
Nearly seven years later, what Booker said rings true for much of the nation, despite the major progress we’ve seen.
Advocates Weigh In on Cory Booker
We reached out to the National Cannabis Industry Association to get their take on a candidate from one of the major parties making marijuana reform such a prevalent part of their campaign platform.
“It’s about time that politicians started giving this issue the serious consideration it deserves,” said NCIA Media Director Morgan Fox. “We are grateful to Senator Booker for bringing cannabis policy reform to the forefront of his campaign, and by extension forcing all other candidates to address it. Honestly, this is not just a sign of Booker’s leadership on this issue, though he has been and continues to be a powerful and outspoken proponent. It is a sign of the changing political environment regarding cannabis, and reflects the popular support for legalization across the country.”
Fox also pointed to the growing evidence that being pro-pot is a solid start for any political campaign.
“With two-thirds of Americans in favor of legalization and a growing body of evidence showing that it has been a success at the state level,” Fox said. “Any presidential candidate that doesn’t come out strong for ending federal cannabis prohibition in some fashion is showing just how out of touch they are with voters, not to mention any conception of common sense or social justice.”
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