Cory Booker has become one of Congress’s leading champions for reforming federal marijuana laws. Now, the Democratic senator from New Jersey is speaking up about the need to dismiss long-held stereotypes about cannabis consumers.
“I know in casual conversations in the Congress, many legislators who’ve done pot themselves. This pejorative pot smoker label doesn’t fly,” he said in a new interview. “So many Americans have used marijuana or have no judgement for people that do. It’s like saying, ‘Oh, those alcohol drinkers.’ We are a great society, a decent society, a good society, but our criminal justice laws do not reflect the heart of America and we all have got to do something about that.”
Booker was responding to a suggestion from Slate’s Mike Pesca that motivating marijuana smokers to help pass legislation he has introduced would be “a big ask,” presumably because they are lazy.
The senator, who has introduced far-reaching bills that would allow medical cannabis and punish states with racially disproportionate marijuana enforcement, did not laugh at Pesca’s apparent joke, pointing out that some very successful people have used cannabis.
“Two of the last three presidents admitted to doing drugs harder than pot,” he said.
But Booker did agree that not enough people who use marijuana are involved in the fight to repeal its prohibition.
“Too many people are sitting on the sidelines. And I really want to point fingers,” he said.
Booker especially wants to call out well-to-do cannabis consumers who aren’t helping the movement.
“People that are privileged in society who smoke pot and just don’t feel like there’s any chance of consequences in their lives,” he said. “Their indulging in that kind of behavior [and] not being a part of the activist community is hypocritical because there’s too many children, too many young people, too many people in my neighborhood and in my community who are suffering for doing the same thing that you’re doing.”
Drawing a parallel to prior movements for social justice, Booker also said that it is also important for people who are not directly impacted by marijuana laws to join the fight.
“The civil rights movement moved so fast because people sitting comfortably at home in Iowa watched what was happening in Alabama, got on freedom rides, went down to do sit-ins and boycotts,” he said. “When it comes to America, we’re all in this together. So don’t just sit back and say, ‘Hey, this isn’t affecting me or I have access to marijuana…’ This is something we’ve got to do something about, and we need everybody involved.”
Earlier this month, during a speech taped for a conference of legalization activists, Booker called the broader war on drugs a “cancer.”
Photo courtesy of Senate Democrats.