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Senator Cory Booker Visits Sacramento Cannabis Giant Amid Decriminalization Push

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New Jersey Senator Cory Booker paid a visit to Natura, Sacramento on Monday to take a look at some grow rooms and talk about cannabis.

Senator Booker didn’t have long to talk but he greeted a room full of weed people with a smile and accolations for those who have taken legal and personal risks to pioneer the industry and set the standard for the rest of the states still in the early days of their legal markets.

“We’re in a weird place in our country where we’ve had this prohibition that has lasted for generations that has really punished folks,” Senator Booker said Monday. “I’m from Newark where marijuana enforcement is disproportionately focused on low income people, people of color, people who are suffering, people who are struggling. And we have this perverse reality in America where we have people with criminal convictions who are doing things that presidents and congress people and senators have admitted to doing. The hypocrisy of that is maddening.”

A long time advocate of legal cannabis, Senator Booker recently introduced the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. If passed, this bit of legislation would essentially end federal cannabis prohibition by removing cannabis from the list of controlled substances entirely.

“Thousands of people have suffered at the hands of our broken cannabis laws, and the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act would finally dismantle the outdated federal marijuana prohibition, expunge past convictions for people with low-level cannabis offenses, and ensure restorative justice for communities impacted by the War on Drugs,” Senator Booker said in a press release. “These common-sense policies will ensure a more equitable criminal justice system and promote public safety.”

Senator Cory Booker watches hash get squished into rosin. Courtesy: Natura 

The announcement of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act came almost directly after an announcement by the DEA to reschedule cannabis from Schedule 1 alongside drugs like heroin and LSD to Schedule 3, alongside drugs like Xanax, Codeine and Ketamine. While rescheduling certainly represents a step forward with regard to the federal laws regarding cannabis, it would not necessarily do anything for people serving prison time for federal cannabis infractions. It’s also unclear how rescheduling would affect existing state cannabis markets, though speculation has run rampant to that end since rescheduling was announced.

The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act contains provisions to create uniform federal regulations for cannabis through the establishment of a federal regulatory commission for cannabis as well as directions for the FDA to establish standards for labeling of cannabis products. The act would also secure additional funding for substance abuse recovery programs, establish grant programs to help individual states combat black market cannabis operations, and direct the Department of Transportation to collect data on cannabis-impaired driving. There are provisions in the act to, among other things, do away with tax burdens on legal cannabis businesses, remove cannabis from federal drug testing, provide automatic expungement for non-violent cannabis crimes, and require various federal agencies to spend money studying cannabis. The bill is co-sponsored by 15 additional Democratic senators and the full text can be found here

“It’s past time for the federal government to catch up to the attitudes of the American people when it comes to cannabis,” Leader Schumer said in a press release. “We have more work to do to address decades of over-criminalization, particularly in communities of color, but today’s reintroduction shows the movement is growing, and I will keep working until we achieve meaningful change.”

This is not the first time Senator Booker has attempted to push legislation to decriminalize cannabis production. He said Monday that when he made his first attempt to do so as a congressman, he was laughed at by his fellow senators.

“I’ve been in the trenches on this. When I first got to the senate 11 years ago, I put forth a major piece of legislation called the Marijuana Justice Act, and I’m not joking I literally got laughed at by senators saying that we shouldn’t do that or it’s a career ender to come out like that,” Senator Booker said. “But now the world has changed in over a decade. The red states and blue states all around America, some partisan issue, have come forward and say, no. This is ridiculous. I’ve had law enforcement officers say ‘Gosh, if there was a drug I’d want to ban it would be alcohol not marijuana.’”

Senator Booker’s visit to Natura was brief but served as yet another indicator that the times are a-changing in Washington and cannabis is moving away from its long-time status as the poster child of the drug war and moving toward a much more realistic and less harmful spot in the eyes of our national legislators. Senator Booker expressed his admiration for the people who have been willing to work in the cannabis industry while it goes through its post-prohibition growing pains.

“I came here to, not learn, but connect with these people that are part of a larger movement in America for justice and I’ve just seen that each and every one of you are willing to work in an industry that’s not easy, but also wants to be in a country where freedom’s never been easy,” Senator Booker said. “Justice has never been easy but we need people like us to stand up for it. It’s what makes it possible.”



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