New Jersey U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, along with U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland urging the Department of Justice to decriminalize cannabis by removing the drug from the federal controlled substances list.
Under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (CSA), the attorney general can remove a substance from the CSA’s list, in consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, based on the finding that it does not have the potential for abuse.
Decriminalizing cannabis at the federal level via the descheduling process would allow states to regulate cannabis as they see fit. Booker and Warren also say it would begin to remedy the harm caused by decades of racial disparities in enforcement of cannabis laws, and facilitate valuable medical research.
“While Congress works to pass comprehensive cannabis reform, you can act now to decriminalize cannabis,” wrote Booker and Warren.
Approximately 91% of adults in the United States believe that cannabis should be legal for medical and recreational use, or for medical use only. To date, 36 states, four territories, and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes, and 18 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for adult recreational use.
Booker and Warren say decriminalizing cannabis at the federal level will address the racial inequities in cannabis law enforcement. Federal cannabis policy has disproportionately affected the ability of people of color in the United States to vote, pursue educational and career opportunities, and to build wealth.
“We urge the DOJ to initiate the process to decriminalize cannabis,” Booker and Warren wrote. “Doing so would be an important first step in the broader tasks of remedying the harmful racial impact of our nation’s enforcement of cannabis laws and ensuring that states can effectively regulate the growing cannabis industry, including by assisting small business owners and those most harmed by our historical enforcement of cannabis laws.”