Senator Cory Booker (Democrat-NJ) raised the problem of racial disparities in cannabis enforcement and the wider war on drugs during his questioning of Amy Coney Barrett, the Supreme Court nominee. Cory Booker is a strong advocate for cannabis reform, including decriminalization and dealing with the racial inequalities due to the War on Drugs, in the judicial system.
Booker stated, “The war on marijuana in 2017, there were more possession of marijuana arrests in America than all the violent crime arrests combined and they were disproportionately African American people.”
“My point is, you see an African American is not more likely to use marijuana, but they are more likely to be convicted of a felony for it in some three-to-four times compared to white people, I hope you can see that means they’re going to be more inclined to lose other rights and liberties that deeply affect their lives.”
“Their ability to vote, to raise their children when a parent has been placed in a position where today, because of the felony conviction for doing things which among their past 3 presidents admitted to doing, they can’t vote, they now can not get jobs, they now can not get business licenses,” Booker stated.
While Booker did not ask Barrett any particular questions on cannabis reform, the senator did inquire whether she has read any books or articles that delve into racial disparities in the criminal justice system. He explained “The New Jim Crow” by civil rights advocate Michelle Alexander for instance. The prospective justice replied that she could not remember having done any of this reading, however, during her academic career, did have regular discussions about the subject. Booker recommended the identical publication to now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing in 2018. Also, during Wednesday’s hearing, the senator more widely discussed the racial inequities of the war on drugs, including marijuana conviction records.
Booker stated, “One of the best drivers of disparities in the justice system, I have worked with partners of mine on both sides of the aisle, is the war on drugs, which is in fact a war on black and brown folks due to the outrageous disparities.” “There is no difference between blacks and whites in the case of using drugs, as well as dealing drugs, but in America blacks are numerous times more likely to be arrested.”
He explained that significant sentencing disparities for crack versus powder cocaine is “among the most tragic examples” of how this issue has played out and needs to be at the forefront of cannabis reform.
Under this system, Booker said, “someone caught with the quantity of crack cocaine the size of a candy bar would get roughly the exact same sentence as someone caught with a briefcase filled with powder cocaine,” and it just so happened to be the case that black people were often arrested with the latter drug.