Senator Cory Booker, D-N.J., Introduced Thursday a bill aimed at legalizing marijuana nationwide as he mounts his presidential campaign.
The bill comes as a growing number of states legalize marijuana at the local level and as public opinion has evolved in favor of legalization.
Ten states and Washington, DC have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes and New York and New Jersey officials have announced plans to legalize marijuana. Local governments cite racial disparities in criminal penalties for drug-addicted offenders, who tend to disproportionately affect blacks and Hispanics, as well as increased tax revenues as a reason for legalization.
Earlier in the week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Governor Andrew Democrats announced plans to revitalize the city's aging metro system, partially tax revenue from legal marijuana.
However, cannabis is still illegal at the federal level. Booker's bill would remove cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances, while offering financial incentives to states to relax their marijuana laws.
The bill also seeks to repair the harm done to people prosecuted for marijuana use by removing federal offenses and allowing offenders to seek shorter sentences from the courts. The sentencing reforms mirror those contained in the historic Criminal Justice Bill passed last December, known as the First Step Act, which Booker also sponsored. The federal bill removed mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders and garnered unprecedented bipartisan support, including from President Donald Trump.
"Blacks are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than their white peers, even if they consume at similar rates," tweeted Booker. "If we truly want to be a fair and equitable nation, we must correct this disparate treatment of law enforcement practices."
The bill would also invest funds in vocational training and other social services in "the areas hardest hit by the failed drug war," tweeted Booker.
Despite growing support for the legalization of marijuana in Washington, the bill is expected to face a tough battle in the Republican-controlled Senate under the supervision of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Last May, the senator from Kentucky said: "I do not intend to approve the legalization of marijuana", about a bill introduced by the leader of the senatorial minority, Chuck Schumer, of New York, to decriminalize the drug. McConnell declined to comment on Booker's bill.
Booker did not immediately respond to requests for comment.