On Tuesday, the Marijuana Justice Act of 2017 was introduced by New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. The highly anticipated bill aims to end the federal government’s prohibition of cannabis, essentially opening the door for every state to legalize the use of the drug.
Booker announced the Marijuana Justice Act via Facebook Live. In his statement, he offered a list of problems that would be solved if weed was legal, including less wasted taxpayer dollars and reducing America’s prison population.
Not only does the Marijuana Justice Act of 2017 legalize weed at the national level, but it also penalizes states with marijuana laws that treat minorities unfairly by withholding federal funding for law enforcement and prison construction. Under the language of the proposed bill, federal convictions related to marijuana could be expunged and current prisoners incarcerated for marijuana-related crimes would have the immediate opportunity to ask for resentencing.
Booker also thinks the Marijuana Justice Act will help diminish Americans’ growing addiction to opioids and prescription painkillers. A National Institute on Drug Abuse survey found one-third of U.S. residents take a prescription painkiller, and recently published data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated nearly 100 people die every day from an opioid overdose.
“I’ve seen a lot of very compelling preliminary data that shows there is a drop in opioid overdoses in areas that have better access to marijuana,” Booker told NBC News.
Booker is likely citing recent research that found a 23 percent drop in hospitalization rates for opioid abuse in states with medical marijuana legalization laws. Opioid overdoses also fell 13 percent, according to the same study published by Drug and Alcohol Dependence. Other studies have produced similar results.
According to a Politico report, the introduction of the Marijuana Justice Act is a welcome surprise to marijuana legalization advocates. Representing Marijuana Majority, Tom Angell says it’s time for the federal government to “get out of the way” and make it easier for states to create good and fair cannabis laws.
“This is the single most far-reaching marijuana bill that’s ever been filed in either chamber of Congress. Polls increasingly show growing majority voter support for legalization. So this is something that more senators should be signing onto right away.”
Recent surveys of Americans’ opinions toward pot seem to agree with Angell. An April poll taken by CBS News revealed 61 percent of respondents want legalized marijuana and over 70 percent think the states should have the final say about cannabis laws without federal intrusion.
Even while the number of states that legalize marijuana continues to increase and pot becomes more socially acceptable, the Marijuana Justice Act of 2017 will likely find a huge amount of resistance. Most Republicans in Congress obstinately oppose marijuana legalization, and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is currently revoking previous federal policies that ignored marijuana businesses in states where weed is legal.
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