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Marijuana Justice Act Would Pave the Way for Marijuana Legalization

On Tuesday August 1st, Senator Corey Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Marijuana Justice Act – legislation that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. The bill would remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, and therefore eliminate the need to rely on the “Cole Memo” to resolve the tension between states that have legalized marijuana – either in medicinal or recreational forms – and the federal government, which still treats possession and distribution of marijuana in any form as a felony.

The bill is designed to shift rule-making power on marijuana to the states, providing incentives to states who follow suit and decriminalize marijuana as well, and creating penalties for states who continue to treat marijuana possession and distribution as a crime. According to the bill, states who do not get on board can see their federal funding for state law enforcement and prison construction cut, specifically if a state is found to have disproportional arrest/incarceration rates for low-income individuals and/or people of color – groups that have been the most heavily impacted by the marijuana component of the “War on Drugs” – for marijuana offenses.

In addition, the bill would provide for expungement and resentencing for federal marijuana offenses, and it would create a “Community Reinvestment Fund” of $500 million, with those funds being derived from the aforementioned cuts in federal funding. The idea here is to incentivize states to legalize marijuana so that they can become eligible to receive these funds.

This bill comes on the heels of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s introduction of legislation in April of this year to fully legalize marijuana (legislation which is expected to pass) and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto’s official decree in June that the Mexican government has legalized medicinal cannabis. It remains to be seen whether the U.S. will follow suit, but Senator Booker’s bill attempts to ride the wave of marijuana legalization in North America.

Possession and distribution of marijuana for any purpose is illegal under federal law. KMK can only advise clients regarding compliance with Ohio state law on medical cannabis, specifically, Sub H.B. 523 of the 131st General Assembly.

KMK Legal Alerts and Blog Posts are intended to bring attention to developments in the law and are not intended as legal advice for any particular client or any particular situation. Please consult with counsel of your choice regarding any specific questions you may have.

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