Several Democratic presidential contenders back comprehensive marijuana legalization legislation

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), who is currently seeking the Democratic nomination for President, is reintroducing legislation that, if enacted, would not only legalize marijuana for recreational purposes nationwide, but would provide a path for the expungement of criminal convictions for possession of marijuana and create a “community reinvestment fund” to invest in communities that have been negatively impacted by the decades-long and ineffective War on Drugs:

Joined by four fellow candidates for the presidency, Sen. Cory Booker is reintroducing legislation that would legalize marijuana and expunge convictions for possessing the drug.

“It’s not enough to simply decriminalize marijuana,” Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, said in a statement announcing the new version of his Marijuana Justice Act. “We must expunge the records of those who have served their time. The end we seek is not just legalization, it’s justice.”

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Booker’s legislation goes further than legalization, though, and would create a “community reinvestment fund” to offer grants, job training, and transition from prison to community life for the people and places “most affected by the war on drugs.”

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The co-sponsors of Booker’s legislation include several of his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, as well as a couple of Democratic U.S. Senators who are considering presidential bids:

Booker’s bill, which was first introduced in 2017 but never brought up for a vote, will be co-sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Ca.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

All of them had co-sponsored the 2017 bill, too, as had Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who is considering his own run for the presidency. Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.), who traveled to Iowa last week, is also co-sponsoring the new bill.

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As NPR reported, notable Democratic presidential contenders who are U.S. Senators but have not yet co-sponsored either the 2017 or 2019 versions of the Marijuana Justice Act include U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who is considering a possible presidential bid.

This is a significant development within the Democratic Party. In 2016, marijuana policy didn’t get a ton of attention during the Democratic primary/caucus campaigns, but it is likely to get a lot more attention in 2020, with a lot of the Democratic presidential contenders on record as supporting comprehensive marijuana legalization legislation. Support of the Marijuana Justice Act by multiple Democratic presidential candidates is yet another example of how the Democratic Party is moving in a better and more progressive direction.