Press Release

Gillibrand Announces Support For Landmark Legislation To Legalize Marijuana, Help Reverse Decades Of Failed Drug Policies That Disproportionately Hurt Communities Of Color And Low-Income Communities

Feb 14, 2018

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced she is cosponsoring the Marijuana Justice Act, landmark legislation that would legalize marijuana and help reverse decades of failed drug policy that has disproportionately hurt communities of color and low-income communities in New York and across the country. This legislation, introduced by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), would remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances, making it legal at the federal level. It would also expunge the records of Americans who have prior marijuana possession convictions. 

“Millions of Americans’ lives have been devastated because of our broken marijuana policies, especially in communities of color and low-income communities,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Just one minor possession conviction could take away a lifetime of opportunities for jobs, education, and housing, tear families apart, and make people more vulnerable to serving time in jail or prison down the road. The reality that my 14-year-old son would likely be treated very differently from one of his Black or Latino peers if he was caught with marijuana is shameful. Legalizing marijuana is a social justice issue and a moral issue that Congress needs to address, and I’m proud to work with Senator Booker on this legislation to help fix decades of injustice caused by our nation’s failed drug policies.” 

“Legalizing marijuana isn’t a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,” Senator Booker said. “I’m thrilled Senator Gillibrand has joined me in this movement to make our justice system more fair.”

“The War on Drugs has been a war on people, especially people of color and low-income individuals,” Booker added. “The Marijuana Justice Act would reverse this trend by not only legalizing marijuana, but by also helping to address the damage the War on Drugs has inflicted on communities disproportionately impacted by marijuana enforcement.”

“As states and most Americans accept that it is time to end marijuana prohibition and its devastating harms to communities of color, it is incredible to see congressional leadership realize that descheduling marijuana is not nearly enough,” said Queen Adesuyi, Policy Associate at the Drug Policy Alliance. “The Marijuana Justice Act uniquely centers marijuana legalization in criminal justice reform, accountability, and community reinvestment, which are steps in the right direction towards repairing the individual and communal harms of decades of inequitable enforcement. We applaud Senator Gillibrand and Senator Booker for their leadership on this issue.”

Specifically, this legislation would:

    • make marijuana legal at the federal level
    • create incentives for states to change their outdated marijuana laws
    • expunge convictions related to use or possession, and
    • create a fund that will reinvest in communities that have been most impacted by broken marijuana policies by investing in job training programs, educational opportunities, public libraries, community centers, and other programs to improve communities.

Gillibrand has met with families in New York to hear firsthand just how much the failed war on drugs has affected communities of color and low-income communities. According to Politico, Black and Latino New Yorkers are nearly 10 times more likely to face marijuana arrests than white New Yorkers. Nationwide, the ACLU estimates that black Americans are almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than their white peers, despite nearly equal rates of marijuana use.

A record number of Americans support legalizing marijuana. A Siena College poll released this week shows that a majority of New Yorkers support marijuana legalization, and a recent Fox News poll shows that support for legalizing marijuana is at an all-time high across the country, with nearly 60 percent of Americans favoring legalization.