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Senior Senate Dem Signs Bill To Punish States With Bad Marijuana Laws

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The Senate’s fourth-most-senior Democrat is signing onto the most far-reaching piece of marijuana legislation ever introduced on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) announced on Monday that he will cosponsor the Marijuana Justice Act, a bill introduced in August by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ).

Watch a Facebook video of Sens. Ron Wyden and Cory Booker discussing the bill:

The bill would not only remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act so that states could legalize without federal interference, but would also withhold funding from states that maintain prohibition and continue racially disproportionate arrest and incarceration rates for cannabis.

Additionally, it would require federal courts to expunge people’s prior marijuana convictions and would let people punished under disproportionately enforced cannabis laws to file civil lawsuits against those states.

Money withheld from states with discriminatory marijuana policies would be used to fund job training and libraries.

“We’ve got to get out of the war on drugs, which is really a war on people,” Booker said during a Facebook video on Monday night.

Sitting next to Booker, Wyden described current marijuana policy as “socially unjust, economically backward and against the will of the American people.”

He added: “We know that people of color around this country are siting in jail now for marijuana offenses that millions of Americans did the same thing and are not faced with the same consequences.”

Booker noted the failure of alcohol prohibition and rhetorically asked, “Why can’t we learn from American history?”

Referring to the fact that a current federal rider that protects state medical cannabis laws from federal interference is in jeopardy, Wyden said he and other allies on Capitol Hill are “gonna pull out all the stops…to make sure that we write it in to black letter law permanently.”

A related press release touted separate Wyden-led legislation to align federal and state laws:

“As the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, Wyden is working to ensure consumers are protected and state-legal marijuana businesses are treated fairly. In March, Wyden introduced the Path to Marijuana Reform, a package of three bills, including the bipartisan Small Business Tax Equity Act that prevents legal marijuana businesses from getting hit with an unfair tax bill. The package also includes measures to shrink the gap between federal and state marijuana policies and responsibly deschedule, tax, and regulation marijuana.”

Photo courtesy of JD Lasica.

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Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 15-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (Organization citations are for identification only and do not constitute an endorsement or partnership.)

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