Sanders Joins Booker’s Marijuana Legislation

Vermont independent supported marijuana legalization in 2016 presidential campaign

Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., center, announced Sen Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., left, would co-sponsor his bill legalizing marijuana. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday became the latest senator to co-sponsor Sen. Cory Booker’s bill that would legalize marijuana.

The other co-sponsors are Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. Gillibrand is considered a potential contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination alongside Booker and Sanders.

Sanders raised concerns about the possibility that people arrested for marijuana charges losing their right to vote during a Facebook live feed.

“What we’re talking about here is not just criminal justice in the narrow sense, you’re talking about the destruction of democratic rights,” he said.

Booker’s legislation not only would legalize marijuana but would allow people convicted of marijuana possession to have their records expunged. It would also give incentives to states and local governments to change their laws if they disproportionately affected communities of color. 

“We have marijuana legalization already for people who are privileged,” Booker said.

Booker said many students on college campuses who smoke marijuana don’t go to jail — but that’s more common among college-age African Americans in inner cities like Newark, where Booker was mayor before being elected to the Senate.

The legislation comes a week after former House Speaker John A. Boehnerjoined the board of a marijuana corporation after years of opposing legalization.

Booker and Sanders have at times been on opposing sides. Booker was a vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 Democratic primary when Sanders challenged Clinton.

Booker was criticized last year for opposing legislation Sanders sponsored that would allow Americans to buy cheaper drugs from Canada

But as he continues to make appeals to Democratic voters nationwide, Booker has supported Sanders’ legislation to enact single-payer health care, which was also supported by Gillibrand. 

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