Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) is highlighting systemic social issues—including racial disparities in marijuana enforcement—that need to be addressed as people across the country march in response to police killings of black Americans.
As protests erupt in the wake of a Minneapolis police officer’s suffocating George Floyd to death, which was proceeded by a fatal Louisville police shooting of Breonna Taylor in a botched drug raid, Booker said it’s important for people to be “actively confronting the truth within our society of raising it up so there can be a deeper healing.”
Part of that truth is that racial disparities have long existed within the U.S. criminal justice system, and an example of that is the disparate enforcement of cannabis criminalization against minority communities, Booker said in the Friday interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes.
Watch Booker’s marijuana comments, starting around 5:05 into the video below:
“Right now, the data that we see from employment information all the way to marijuana laws—where [there is] no difference between blacks and whites for using the drug, but there was more marijuana arrests in 2017 than all violent crime arrests combined, and blacks were four times more likely to be arrested for it,” he said.
“These are data points that do not speak to the heart and the grievous realities that each one of those data points impact the lives of people who are being destroyed,” he said. People “can’t get a job, can’t get a loan from the bank for doing things that two of the last three presidents have admitted to doing.”
“There has to be people right now who are sitting at home watching this—they cannot allow their inability to do everything about the problem of racism in America to stop them from doing something more than they did in the last stretch since the last videotape captured what is a regular occurrence in America,” he said. “If you are not changing, then nothing will change in this country.”
The senator, who is sponsoring legislation to federally legalize marijuana with an eye toward social equity, is speaking to a point that several of his colleagues in Congress have made in recent days.
Last week, 12 House members introduced a resolution condemning police brutality and specifically noting the racial injustices of the war on drugs.
The measure came one week after 44 members of the House sent a letter to the Justice Department, calling for an independent investigation into a fatal police shooting of Taylor.
A rapper who owns a marijuana dispensary that was looted in Los Angeles over the weekend also seemed to echo Booker’s sentiment, stating that the temporary loss of his shop pales in comparison to the underlying racial injustices that prompted the protests.
“How can I worry about a store when there is so much more going on in the world right now? So much hate, so much anger, so much pain, and a lack of justice,” Berner said.
Photo courtesy of Senate Democrats.