POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Booker introduces marijuana legalization bill

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

It’s legal in eight states. Twenty-nine states have medical marijuana programs. That number includes New Jersey which, at this point, has legislation in committee that would legalize the plant. State Sen. Nicholas Scutari told the crowd at a rally, marijuana was legal for the majority of our country’s history and it’s time it goes back.

“We’ve overcrowded our jails, we’ve over taxed our police resources, and for what?” said Scutari.

But this conversation is not just about what will happen in New Jersey. U.S. Sen. Cory Booker introduced a bill earlier this week called the Marijuana Justice Act. It’s a bill that would decriminalize marijuana nationwide.

“It ends the federal prohibition on marijuana, it incentivizes states through federal funds to change their marijuana laws if those laws are shown to have a disproportional impact on low-income individuals and people of color,” explained Booker, “and it automatically expunges marijuana use and possession crimes and allows people who are currently serving time to petition the court.”

Booker is referring to people like Chris Goldstein, a writer and college professor who was cited for federal marijuana possession for smoking a joint at a protest in Philadelphia.

Goldstein says he had to pay $3,000, with two years of supervised probation.

“I couldn’t leave New Jersey,” said Goldstein. “I had to get drug tested every month and the only way I can clear my record for that half joint is to ask for a presidential pardon.”

Booker’s new bill, he says, would allow people like Goldstein to get his record expunged.

“In New Jersey, I think, every year we have 23,000 people arrested for small amounts of marijuana. And by doing this we’d free up police officers to go after the real criminals,” said Booker.

Retired New Jersey State Trooper Nick Bucci, spent 22 years working as the head lieutenant in the narcotics bureau. He saw everything from the streets to the cartels and he says it’s time the priorities be shifted off marijuana to allow police officers to shift their focus to real criminals.

“There are rape cases sitting on shelves in laboratories because they can’t get to them because they’re mandated by the courts to take care of drug cases first,” explained Bucci.

But will the senator’s bill have enough support to get passed? It does face opposition from some, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has been very vocal about his desires to crack down on marijuana.

While NJTV News was waiting for the rally to start, a man was put in handcuffs as his medical marijuana was spread on the ground. The question is: will this scene continue to be our normal, or will it soon disappear?

Just think back to the 1920s when alcohol was banned during prohibition. Now it’s a norm in our culture. Is it going to be the same for marijuana? Will this rally be one future generations will look back on? As the saying goes, only time will tell.