Why Pro-Legalization Cory Booker Isn’t Cosponsoring The New Marijuana Bill

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF MARIJUANA MOMENT)

 

POLITICS

Why Pro-Legalization Cory Booker Isn’t Cosponsoring The New Marijuana Bill

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Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) is in presidential campaign mode, and he’s made marijuana reform a critical tenet of his platform. So why isn’t he cosponsoring new bipartisan legislation to shield legal cannabis states from federal intervention that was introduced in Congress last week?

The senator signed on to an earlier version of the bill that was filed last year. And he’s repeatedly said that states should be granted the autonomy to set their own marijuana policies. That would be accomplished under the proposed bill, yet he declined to add his name as an original cosponsor of the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act.

The reasoning behind his decision was unclear until Tuesday, when Booker told VICE’s Matt Laslo that he’s withholding his support because the bill doesn’t go far enough in terms of repairing the racially disproportionate harms of prohibition.

“At this point it’s too obvious and urgent and unfair that we’re moving something on marijuana on the federal level and it doesn’t do something on restorative justice,” he told VICE. “I want that bill to have some acknowledgement of the savage injustices that the marijuana prohibition has done to communities.”

“I get very angry when people talk about legalizing marijuana and then give no light to how marijuana law enforcement was done in ways that fed upon poor communities—black and brown communities. This is a war on drugs that has not been a war on drugs—it’s been a war on people, and disproportionately poor people and disproportionately black and brown people.”

Listening to the 2020 Democratic candidate talk about his drug reform philosophy of late reveals something of a shift—one that places greater weight on social equity—and Booker seems to be indicating that the STATES Act doesn’t meet his standard for reform.

“We fundamentally have laws in this country that have treated people differently,” Booker said in separate comments last month. “I’m hoping all of us when we talk about marijuana legalization or marijuana decriminalization, in the same breath we’ve got to talk about expunging the records of everyone who is still suffering.”

Under the senator’s own Marijuana Justice Act, federal courts would have to expunge the records of individuals with convictions for possessing or consuming cannabis. It would go further too, by federally descheduling cannabis and penalizing states that enforce marijuana laws in a racially or socioeconomically disproportionate way by withholding certain federal funds. And that saved money would go toward community reinvestment efforts such as job training programs.

“Senator Booker is right that for any marijuana legalization bill to pass Congress, it must have robust racial justice provisions,” Michael Collins, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, told Marijuana Moment. “We need to take steps to right the wrongs of the war on drugs, and we hope that more members of Congress will embrace Booker’s position.”

It’s already apparent that Booker is working to distinguish himself from the current crowd of pro-legalization Democratic presidential hopefuls. For example, he seemed to make a veiled critique of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) after she made a lighthearted admission that she used marijuana during college.

“We have presidential candidates and congresspeople and senators that now talk about their marijuana use almost as if it’s funny,” he said last month. “But meanwhile, in 2017, we had more arrests for marijuana possession in this country than all the violent crime arrests combined.”

During that same campaign stop, Booker also said “do not talk to me about legalizing marijuana unless in the same breath you talk to me about expunging the records of the millions of people that are suffering with not being able to find a job,” touting his legislation.

Booker’s criticisms of what he sees as the inadequacies of the STATES Act, which was filed by competing presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), could provide another way for the senator to separate himself from the pack in the race—though Warren and Harris, along with other contenders, have also signed on as cosponsors of his Marijuana Justice Act.

The STATES Act is a relatively non-controversial, bipartisan bill, as far as cannabis reform in Congress goes. It has a states’ rights focus that has appealed to even some historically anti-marijuana lawmakers like Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), who endorsed the legislation in a letter to the chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

“[I]t sounds like I need to talk to Cory Booker about fixing a federal-state conflict,” Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), the chief Republican cosponsor of the Senate version of the STATES Act, told VICE. “This is about fixing a conflict in federal and state law that needs to be done, and it’s pretty simple. So I think he would be hard pressed to vote against it.”

To be clear, while Booker is withholding his name as a cosponsor of the bill, he hasn’t said he would vote against it—a prospect that would almost certainly sink its chances of clearing the Judiciary Committee, of which he is a member, if brought up for consideration there.

In the 116th Congress, the STATES Act also seems to have revealed additional political schisms in marijuana policy within the Democratic party. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) removed her name from the original cosponsors list after supporting the last version, for instance, but advocates suspect that that decision reflects what they see as the senator’s disingenuous prior support, which came in the midst of a re-election battle with progressive challenger, state Sen. Kevin de Leon (D).

https://www.marijuanamoment.net/sen-dianne-feinstein-signs-onto-marijuana-bill-after-decades-of-drug-war-advocacy/embed/#?secret=bZEm4WU4qn

Photo courtesy of Senate Democrats.

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Sen. Booker Releases Judge Kavanaugh Doc’s Republicans Trying To Hide From Public

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HUFFINGTON POST)

 

Cory Booker Releases Confidential Documents During Kavanaugh Hearing

Hawaii’s Sen. Mazie Hirono followed Booker’s threat to publish formerly confidential documents with her own release during the third day of hearings.
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Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) released formerly confidential emails from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh about racial profiling and racial discrimination at the start of the third day of confirmation hearings on Thursday, around an hour after threatening to do so.

The dramatic move appeared to defy Republicans who had shielded the documents from public view, and it seemed to risk breaking Senate rules. Senate Judiciary Committee staffers for Republican and Democratic officials told The Washington Post, however, that the committee cleared the documents for public viewing before either senator posted them to their websites. A spokesman for Bill Burck, the Republican lawyer overseeing the approvals, also told the publication that the emails Booker released were cleared last night.

The precise timing is not yet clear.

A spokesman for Booker said in a statement that the senator and unnamed Democratic colleagues “were able to shame the committee” into releasing the documents. Yet a spokeswoman for Hirono told HuffPost the senator did not ask the committee to release the emails that she made public around 10:30 a.m. before she published them online. Hirono did not know they would be cleared for public release, the spokeswoman said.

Booker was the first to threaten to make the documents public, saying he would “knowingly violate” the rules and accept any punishment for his action, which he considered to be civil disobedience. Booker said the emails, taken from Kavanaugh’s time in the Bush White House, do not pose a threat to national security.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) asks Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh a question during a confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

THE WASHINGTON POST VIA GETTY IMAGES
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) asks Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh a question during a confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said the emails Booker referenced had, in fact, just been deemed non-confidential, saying “the process worked.” Lee offered to work with Democrats in the committee to make other confidential documents public, too.

When Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) reminded Booker that he could lose his seat for breaking Senate rules, prior to the documents’ release, Booker responded: “Bring it.”

At the hearing, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) argued that all the committee confidential documents should be publicly released, saying, “We are literally trying to get at the truth here.”

Booker’s documents, released Thursday afternoon, reveal that while Kavanaugh “generally” supports “race-neutral” security measures, the nominee also believed there was an “interim” question on whether to use racial profiling before neutral security measures are deployed. The emails between White House staffers were sent from mid-2001 and early 2002.

Messages released by Hirono reference unspecified government programs. Kavanaugh said in June 2002 that any such programs “targeting” native Hawaiians “as a group” are “subject to strict scrutiny” and “of questionable validity under the Constitution.” Hirono said in the hearing that her “colleagues from Alaska should be deeply troubled” by the nominee’s views because they would also apply to native Alaskans. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski from Alaska is seen as a possible swing vote in the confirmation process.

Booker’s colleagues Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Hirono also rallied around him, pledging their support in the event Booker faced “retribution,” as Durbin put it. Hirono said she would “defy anyone.”

“You want everything to be made public? All your emails? I don’t think you do,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) responded at the hearing.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) jumped in to argue that the process of categorizing documents as committee confidential was far from transparent and perhaps unfair.

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“There is no process for ‘committee confidential,’” she said, adding that Democrats were not consulted in the decision to make certain documents private.

The release was in line with what progressive groups urged Democratic senators to do Wednesday: Go around Grassley and release the 141,000 pages of documents from Kavanaugh’s record that are not permitted for public release or public discussion. Members of the committee can read and discuss the documents among themselves, but they cannot question Kavanaugh on their contents in the hearings.

Read the documents that Booker released below. Hirono also uploaded documents, which are now on her website.