“This is one of those issues, like the civil rights movement of the 1960s, where it should pull all Americans together to say enough is enough,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) told Vox.
The Senator is baffled by the fact that both groups, Black and White, use and sell marijuana at the same rate, but African Americans are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for it. In New Jersey, Booker said, African Americans make up just 14.7 percent of the population but account for 61 percent of the prison population.
“You go to college campuses and you’ll get white drug dealers. I know this from my own experience of growing up and going to college myself,” Booker told Vox. “Fraternity houses are not being raided by police at the level you see with communities in inner cities.”
Booker is also rattled by the overwhelming number of prisoners incarcerated for drug-related crimes. Meanwhile, prisoners who are arrested for violent, more severe crimes are drastically lower. In 2013, nearly 100,000 prisoners were jailed for drug-related violations; in the same year, just under 10,000 were incarcerated for violent crimes.
This is a backwards criminal justice system that has its bull’s eye on the wrong offenders.
“What’s more dangerous to society: someone smoking marijuana in the privacy of their own home, or someone going 30 miles over the speed limit, racing down a road in a community? And yet that teenager who makes a mistake — doing something the last three presidents admitted to doing — now he has a felony conviction, because it’s more likely he’s going to get caught,” he said.
The New Jersey Senator also added that the lopsided focus on marijuana offenders is fiscally irresponsible. While we’re spending gross amounts of tax dollars to throw marijuana users and sellers in jail, we are also “undermining human potential” which has a “savage” and “disparate” affect on Blacks.
As you might have guessed, Booker is pro-deregulating marijuana. Marijuana laws, he says, are “off the rails” — the drug is so vilified that it’s created a class of so-called “criminals,” who, despite taking a hit or two, are law abiding citizens. Last week, the Senator introduced a “historic” bill that would force the federal government to acknowledge the drug’s medical value.
Leaving us with something to chew on, Booker added:
“…Every single day I would encounter good Americans who were being overly punished [for a] nonviolent drug offense, [which] was undermining their potential to contribute, to raise their kids, to have a decent life,” he said. “That’s just wrong. So every day that I’m here, that echoes in my conscience and drives me forward.”