bloomin photo legalize.jpg

Senator Kamala Harris Says She Will Support Proposed Legalization Legislation

Roger Malespin photo/istock.com/Lobro78 

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker is one of the greatest allies the legalization revolution has in politics. Of his many contributions to the movement, he introduced a bill last August to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand signed on as a co-sponsor earlier, as did Senator Bernie Sanders in April, and now California Senator Kamala Harris has added her name to the list of supporters of the bill before it makes its way through the House of Representatives later this year. 

Booker’s bill has several points, but chief among them is the many adverse ways African American communities have been affected by current drug laws. "Our country's drug laws are badly broken and need to be fixed," Booker said. "They don't make our communities any safer - instead they divert critical resources from fighting violent crimes, tear families apart, unfairly impact low-income communities and communities of color, and waste billions in taxpayer dollars each year."

Adding to his statement, Senator Harris said "The fact is that marijuana laws are not applied and enforced in the same way for all people," so for example, African-Americans use marijuana at roughly the same rate as whites but are approximately four times as likely to be arrested for possession. That's just not fair."

Other provisions in the bill include providing federal incentives to states to change their marijuana laws if they were shown to disproportionately hurt low-income individuals or people of color, and those already convicted of marijuana-related crimes possibly having their sentences reviewed by a judge. Booker’s measure was introduced without any Republican support, meaning it had little hope of passing, but Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York stepped in for support with his own bill aimed at decriminalization. Schumer's considerable power in congress is a great help to both the House and Senate decriminalization bills. 

Study after study has confirmed what these lawmakers and community leaders have known for years. An independent study by the American Civil Liberties Union showed that across the country African Americans are 4 times as likely to arrested for marijuana than whites despite nearly even usage. 

"The end we seek is justice," Booker said. "The justice means addressing the damage and harm you caused by a war on drugs."

The United States government spends as much as 20 billion dollars a year enforcing marijuana laws, yet there has been no reduction of its use or availability.  The prosecution of non-violent, minor drug offenders as hardened criminals has led to countless families being torn apart, and tied the hands of scientific progress on cannabis as medicine studies for a wide range of ailments including cancer and epilepsy. The support being shown by these lawmakers and others is a reflection of the will of the American people, who have demanded that this unfair, immoral, and completely impractical schedule 1 drug statute be rescinded. 

This is why it is important for all supporters of legalization to be politically involved. These politicians would not be introducing these bills if they didn't hear the voices of their constituents. Your voice matters - vote for pro legalization lawmakers wherever you are and make it heard.