The Trump administration’s decision to step up enforcement of federal marijuana laws is a “tipping point” in the effort to legalize the drug nationally, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker told NJ Cannabis Insider.
Booker, D-N.J., said he has talked to a number of federal lawmakers of both parties, who come from states that have legalized the drug and are opposed to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement in January that the Justice Department once again would prosecute marijuana cases in states that have legalized the drug.
Under President Barack Obama, Justice officials said they would let states enforce their own laws while the federal agency focused on drug cartels, on transporting marijuana into states that have not legalized it, and on making sure legal marijuana businesses are not used as a cover for illegal activities, including selling other drugs.
“For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction,” Booker said in an interview. “More Republicans are saying, ‘Let the states do what they want to do.’ This is a really important tipping point.”
Booker has introduced legislation to remove the federal prohibition on marijuana, leaving it solely up to the states to decide whether to legalize it. More than 40 states currently allow the use of marijuana for medical or personal use.
So far, only two senators, both Democrats, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, have signed onto Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., has introduced similar legislation in the House, which has attracted 24 Democratic sponsors, including Rep. Donald Payne Jr., D-10th Dist.
Booker said he doesn’t expect any Republicans to co-sponsor the bill in the current Congress, but that could change after the 2018 election.
“More and more senators are coming to me and want to sign on,” Booker said. “There’s more energy and growing energy.”
He said he is trying to get a hearing on his bill before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he recently joined. He said he has talked to the committee chairman, Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, whom he has worked with on efforts to overhaul the criminal justice system and provide alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders, and the panel’s ranking Democrat, Dianne Feinstein of California.
Booker said that eventually the county will “end Prohibition for the second time” and marijuana will legalized. The first Prohibition was the ban on alcohol, enacted through the 18th amendment to the Constitution and repealed in the 21st.
“It will happen,” Booker said. “It’s not a matter of if, but when.”