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Private Prisons On Edge As Dem Senator Introduces Bill To Legalize Marijuana

Shortly after Donald Trump appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Private prisons were salivating as the new AG announced the most aggressive approach possible against “criminal” Marijuana users. But Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) just threw a wrench in their celebration.

The Democratic senator is introducing legislation to end the federal prohibition on marijuana and encourage states to legalize pot.

The legislation, which Booker will formally roll out later Tuesday during a Facebook event, would amend the Controlled Substance Act to eliminate marijuana’s status as a Schedule 1 drug—a move that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level.

It would also try to incentivize states to legalize marijuana if their current laws have a “disproportionate arrest rate” on minority or low-income individuals.

Booker’s legislation would also be retroactive and require federal courts to expunge previous marijuana-related convictions. Individuals still in jail could petition to get their sentence shortened to comply with Booker’s bill.

A similar 2015 bill from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) got stalled in the Judiciary Committee.

In order to please donors from the private prison industry, the Trump administration is signaling it will take a tough line on marijuana.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote lawmakers earlier this year asking them not to block the Department of Justice from using funds to enforce federal marijuana laws.

Many experts say those laws and sentencing rules led to drug offenders spending decades in prison or even receiving life behind bars, when lesser sentences would have been adequate. The laws also ballooned the prison population, leading to costs that were unsustainable for some state governments. It also made private prison owners millions of dollars on the back of taxpayers.

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