As pot bill gains steam in Washington, Sen. Booker drops support

New Jersey Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker is pictured in this file photo in Amherst, NH on Saturday April 6, 2019. (Nikolas Hample/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

New Jersey Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker is pictured in this file photo in Amherst, NH on Saturday April 6, 2019. (Nikolas Hample/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

Presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey no longer supports a bill to legalize marijuana, even as the legislation is gaining support from the Trump administration. The move puts Booker at odds with other Democrats running for the White House.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr now supports the STATES Act, which would end the federal prohibition on weed by allowing states to decide their own marijuana laws. Just last year, Booker supported the effort. He opposes it now because it doesn’t go far enough to help those convicted of possessing a drug that would become legal.

“This is a war on drugs that has not been a war on drugs — it’s been a war on people — and disproportionately low-income people and disproportionately black and brown people,” Booker said. If the bill can’t be changed to include expunging records of those convicted of marijuana possession in the past, he said, “that’s just patently unfair.”

Booker is the main sponsor of a competing bill to legalize marijuana federally that would also invest in job training and community centers in the areas hardest hit by the war on drugs.

The STATES Act is sponsored U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, another presidential candidate.  The measures aren’t mutually exclusive, she said.

“I support full legalization and restorative justice,” Warren said. “I also support having the federal government back off when the states have already legalized marijuana — and bringing those businesses into the banking system and into the tax system.”

Still, Booker said he can no longer support Warren’s marijuana legalization bill unless it at least shines a spotlight on drug-related mass incarceration.

“I want that bill to have some acknowledgment of the savage injustices that the marijuana prohibition has done to communities, and some acknowledgment of the urgency to do something about these ongoing injustices that won’t be addressed by just a prospective bill,” Booker said. “We need to have something about restorative justice. Some acknowledgment of that and some commitment to do something about that.”

Booker does have an ally in U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, who also opposes the STATES Act in its current form because it lacks a restorative justice component.

Booker is scheduled to hold a “hometown kickoff” of his presidential campaign Saturday in Newark, New Jersey.

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