Presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey said last Wednesday night that he was ‘disappointed’ that the subject of marijuana legalization did not come up during the Democratic Party debates held this week. The party conducted two separate rounds of debates on Wednesday and Thursday to accommodate the broad field of Democratic candidates. Twenty candidates sparred over the two evenings, 10 each night, while several other Democratic hopefuls failed to qualify to participate in the contests under party rules.
“I am absolutely disappointed that wasn’t an issue when you see voters turning out this issue all over the country,” Booker said after the first round of the debates on Wednesday.
Booker has been an outspoken advocate for reform of the nation’s marijuana laws, believing that cannabis legalization is an essential part of broader criminal justice reform he is seeking. The junior senator from New Jersey is also calling for the reversal of past convictions for marijuana offenses.
“I would like to see the federal government end it’s making marijuana illegal and pull back and let the states do what they want,” said Booker. “But I am also one of those people that thinks you cannot talk about marijuana legalization if in the same sentence you’re not talking about expunging the records of those Americans who have criminal convictions for doing things that two of the last three presidents admitted to doing.”
Booker Touts His ‘Marijuana Justice Act’
Booker said he was frustrated that the subject of cannabis legalization was not discussed at the debates, characterizing himself “as a guy who has one of the boldest bills” on the issue.
In February, Booker reintroduced the Marijuana Justice Act in the U.S. Senate, a bill that would legalize cannabis at the federal level. He originally introduced the bill in the Senate in 2017, but the measure was never taken up for a vote. Booker said in a statement announcing the re-introduction of the bill that cannabis prohibition has had a devastating effect on minority communities.
“The War on Drugs has not been a war on drugs, it’s been a war on people, and disproportionately people of color and low-income individuals,” Booker said. “The Marijuana Justice Act seeks to reverse decades of this unfair, unjust, and failed policy by removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances and making it legal at the federal level.”
The Marijuana Justice Act has received strong support in the Senate, including from his colleagues and fellow Democratic Party presidential candidates Sens. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Michael Bennet, and Bernie Sanders, all of whom also participated in this week’s debates.