Cory Booker on Drugs

Mayor of Newark; N.J. Senator; 2020 presidential contender (withdrawn)


Deal with impact of pot on blacks not privileged whites

Marijuana is already legal for privileged people. The war on drugs has been a war on black and brown people. These are the kind of issues that mean a lot to our community. We lost in Wisconsin because of a massive diminution in the African-American vote. We need to have someone that can inspire, as Kamala said, to inspire African-Americans to the polls in record numbers.
Source: November Democratic primary debate in Atlanta , Nov 20, 2019

Release 17,000 who are unjustly incarcerated for drug use

Our criminal justice system is so savagely broken. There's no difference in America between blacks, whites and Latinos for using drugs or dealing drugs. But if you are African-American, you are almost four times more likely to be arrested and incarcerated, destroying your lives.

So much of this comes down to privilege. We have a criminal justice system that treats you better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent.

We can specifically and demonstrably now show that there are 17,000 people unjustly incarcerated in America, and all of us should come forward and say, when I am president of the United States, we will release them.

Source: September Democratic Primary debate in Houston , Sep 12, 2019

Don't lock people up for drugs & poverty; lift them up

Q [to Biden]: Sen. Booker called your new criminal justice reform plan, "an inadequate solution to what is a raging crisis in our country."

BIDEN: He has a similar plan. When someone is convicted of a drug crime, they should be going to rehabilitation. They shouldn't be going to prison.

BOOKER: This is a crisis in our country because we have treated issues of race and poverty, mental health and addiction with locking people up and not lifting them up. The V.P. has said that, since the 1970s, every crime bill, major and minor, has had his name on it. Sir, those are your words, not mine. The house was set on fire and you claimed responsibility for those laws. And you can't just now come out with a plan to put out that fire. We have got to have far more bold action on criminal justice reform, like having true marijuana justice in communities that have been disproportionately targeted by marijuana enforcement.

BIDEN: Those bills were passed years ago and they were passed overwhelming.

Source: July Democratic Primary debate (second night in Detroit) , Jul 31, 2019

Remove cocaine sentencing disparities

Booker on Cocaine Sentencing Disparities: Scrap the disparity.

TWO CANDIDATES HAVE SIMILAR VIEWS: Joseph Biden, Jr.; Bernie Sanders.

Sen. Cory Booker has introduced a bill meant to serve as a companion to the 2018 criminal justice legislation, called the Next Step Act. Booker's bill would eliminate the crack cocaine sentencing disparity by reducing it from 18:1 to 1:1.

Sen. Bernie Sanders called for the same in 2015, prompting Hillary Clinton to embrace the same reform.

Source: Politico "2020Dems on the Issues" , Jul 17, 2019

Marijuana Justice Act: decriminalize pot & expunge records

Source: Cannabis Voter Project report on 2020 candidates , Jul 2, 2019

The war on drugs has been a war on people

I came from Yale and Stanford, where people were using marijuana, using drugs, where there's no difference between drug usage and drug selling between blacks and whites. But African Americans are almost four times more likely to be incarcerated for those things. This war on drugs has been a war on people. We have had a 500% increase in the prison population since 1980, overwhelmingly black and brown. There's more African Americans under criminal supervision today than all the slaves in 1850.
Source: Meet the Press 2019 interview series , Jun 30, 2019

Opioid manufacturers should be held criminally liable

Q: Should pharmaceutical companies that manufacture [opioids] be held criminally liable?

A: They should absolutely be held criminally liable, because they are liable and responsible. We have been seeing how we've tried to arrest our way out of addiction for too long. It is time that we have a national urgency to deal with this problem and make the solutions that are working to actually be the law of our land and make the pharmaceutical companies that are responsible help to pay for that.

Source: June Democratic Primary debate (first night in Miami) , Jun 26, 2019

Legalize marijuana nationally including recreational use

He reintroduced a bill that would legalize marijuana on the federal level and supersede the patchwork of 10 states (and Washington, D.C.) that have legalized recreational marijuana.
Source: Axios.com "What you need to know about 2020" , May 6, 2019

Decriminalize marijuana; expunge past criminal records

In this climate where many states are moving to legalize marijuana, I have a lot of frustrations. We fundamentally have different laws in this country that are treating people differently. There are still marijuana arrests. In 2017, there were more marijuana arrests in this country than all violent crime arrests combined. And marijuana enforcement is disproportionately impacting black and brown communities. There is no difference in America between using and even selling marijuana between blacks and whites. But if you're African American in this country, you're almost four times more likely to be arrested for that. That's why I fast put a bill into the Senate called the Marijuana Justice Act, which is about decriminalizing marijuana on the federal level, letting the states do what they want, but very importantly in the same breath, we've got to talk about expunging the records of everyone who is still suffering.
Source: CNN Town Hall: 2020 presidential hopefuls , Mar 27, 2019

Legalize marijuana federally, plus state incentives

Kamala Harris' call for legalization of marijuana follow the lead of multiple others. Sen. Cory Booker, a NJ Democrat and one of Harris' top opponents for the party's nomination, introduced a bill in 2017 that would both legalize marijuana use at a federal level & encourage states to legalize it locally through incentives. By attaching the issue to himself early on, Booker--one of the early top prospects for the Democrats in 2020--all but forced contenders to take a stance on legalizing marijuana.
Source: Politico.com, "Legalization," on 2020 presidential hopefuls , Feb 11, 2019

Opposes Drug War, but control border for opioid precursors

BROKEN PROMISE: : Booker had adopted a strongly progressive stance on drugs -supporting medical marijuana; supporting treatment instead of incarceration for drug possession; opposing drug enforcement is racially biased; and opposing the War on Drugs in general. He "evolved" and signed on to the War on Opioids, seeking international treaty restrictions on opioid precursor trafficking.

ANALYSIS: : Some progressives and minority voters would consider the "opioid epidemic" just the latest application of biased enforce-ment, and would expect Booker to apply his racial-bias philosophy to a general rejection of drug enforcement. Booker would differentiate opioids as more dangerous than marijuana - which critics would say follows in the scare-tactic footsteps of Demon Rum and Reefer Madness. Booker's proposed border interdiction above is a standard proposal of Drug Warriors--just involving international institutions as a novel feature.

Source: Cory Booker 'Promises Broken,' by Jesse Gordon, p. 30 , Apr 1, 2017

Give addicts treatment instead of long sentences

Some of the most important work we need to do to reduce crime has nothing to do with police. I am proud more people are realizing the importance of giving addicts treatment instead of longer sentences behind bars. I am proud that there is a growing awareness of America's unmet mental health needs.

We are also coming to realize how essential it is to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline--the ridiculous policies that have criminalized kids instead of nurturing them, helping them, & healing them. There is a growing body of research that shows we can lower crime rates by better dealing with childhood trauma and investing in policies such as Nurse-Family Partnerships, where at-risk mothers get home nurse visits that are proven to reduce the cost to taxpayers of everything from kids' emergency room visits to teens' encounters with the police.

Source: United, by Senator Cory Booker, p.157-8 , Feb 16, 2016

Drug war isn't waged in privileged communities

I knew, from living in the relatively privileged communities I grew up in, that the drug war wasn't waged in those places like it was in Newark. I was coming from college campuses and towns where marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine, and other drugs were widespread and often used openly, with little fear of the police.

The war on drugs has turned out to be a war on PEOPLE--and far too often a war on people of color and the poor. Marijuana use, for example, is roughly equal among blacks and whites, yet blacks are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for possession than whites.

Further, there is no difference between blacks and whites in dealing drugs. In fact, some studies show that whites are more likely than blacks to sell drugs, even though blacks are far more likely to be arrested for it.

Source: United, by Senator Cory Booker, p.181 , Feb 16, 2016

Staged sit-in at urban housing to disrupt drug trade

The resident Elaine Sewell called to ask me to help. A violent incident had occurred at Garden Spires. As she explained it to me, guys involved in the drug trade had attacked the security guards. "Cory," she said, "it is the Wild Wild West out here! The Wild Wild West."

My response was to explain to her over and over again that I didn't know what to do. "We elected you, Cory. If you can't help, then why did we elect you?"

Source: United, by Senator Cory Booker, p. 67-70 , Feb 16, 2016

Minorities imprisoned for drugs at 6 times rate for whites

More than 60 percent of the prison population is comprised of racial and ethnic minorities. This is driven by wide disparities in arrests and incarceration. Even though blacks and Latinos engage in drug offenses at a rate no different than whites, blacks are incarcerated at a rate six times greater than whites, and Latinos are incarcerated at nearly twice the rate of whites for the same offenses. The incarceration rate of Native Americans is 38 percent higher than the national rate. Latinos account for 17 percent of the U.S. population, but 22 percent of the U.S. incarcerated population. And, blacks make up only 13 percent of the total U.S. population, but 37 percent of the U.S. prison population. Today, we have more black men in prison or under state or federal supervision than were enslaved in 1850.
Source: Brennan Center for Justice essays, p. 9 , Apr 28, 2015

End mandatory sentencing for nonviolent drug offenders

I reintroduced the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2015, bipartisan legislation that would enact meaningful sentencing reforms that would make our federal sentencing policy fairer, smarter, and more cost-effective. It would reduce harsh mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenders, which is the single largest factor in the growth of the federal prison population. If we want our prison population to decrease, we must reduce mandatory minimums.

The bill would expand the federal "safety valve," which returns discretion in sentencing for nonviolent drug offenses back to federal judges. It would allow persons convicted under the pre-2010 crack cocaine laws to receive reduced sentences, a change needed to make crack cocaine penalties more in line with powder cocaine penalties. Crack and powder cocaine are pharmacologically the same. The Smarter Sentencing Act would reduce these sentences and save our country $229 million over the next 10 years.

Source: Brennan Center for Justice essays, p. 10-1 , Apr 28, 2015

The drug war is an abject failure

As homicides surge in the city he governed for seven years, Booker said he's looking at several programs to overhaul the US criminal justice system and end the war on drugs, which he said fuels much of the violence.

"I can say as a mayor who has been fighting on the front lines for years, the drug war is an abject failure," Booker said. "It's consumed egregious amounts of taxpayers' dollars. It hasn't achieved the public-safety aims of our streets, it's consumed human potential, it is a massive government overreach."

He said the real answer to fighting crime is addressing poverty and poor education. "All of these things are things we should be working collaboratively on," Booker said.

Source: Newark Star-Ledger on 2014 New Jersey Senate race , Jan 1, 2014

The war on drugs has failed; support medical marijuana

Newark Mayor Cory Booker took to Reddit Sunday to criticize the war on drugs, saying it was ineffective and "represents big overgrown government at its worst."

The Democrat wrote during the Reddit "ask me anything" chat: "The so called War on Drugs has not succeeded in making significant reductions in drug use, drug arrests or violence. We are pouring huge amounts of our public resources into this current effort that are bleeding our public treasury and unnecessarily undermining human potential."

Booker then called drug arrests a "game": "My police in Newark are involved in an almost ridiculous game of arresting the same people over and over again and when you talk to these men they have little belief that there is help or hope for them to break out of this cycle," he wrote.

Booker has said he supports medical marijuana, and outlined programs he has implemented to lower drug arrests: reentry, court reform, jobs, treatment and legal aid.

Source: Huffington Post, "Cory Booker & Drug War" , Jul 16, 2012

Never attracted to drink and drugs, even as teenager

In a city not known for its salad bars, Booker is an anomaly, and his vegetarian diet is only part of it. He has no known vices or addictions (except books--a friend once joked that Booker's crack den was Barnes and Noble); drink and drugs have never held any allure. During high school, friends would offer him money just to see him take a sip of beer.

In mission and temperament, Booker is the quintessential designated driver. "TV, food, alcohol, sex--they're all things we can fill our lives with that can distract us from our purpose," he says. "I was one of those kids who wanted to be a good kid," he notes.

Source: Oprah Magazine on 2013 N.J. Senate race , Sep 1, 2010

Community courts for minor crimes like drug possession

Community courts zero in on low-level crime--offenses like vandalism, shoplifting, minor drug possession--and combine punishment and help. In the community court, instead of fines many people can't pay or short jail terms that do them no good, quality-of-life offenders will be sentenced to visible community service throughout the City and referred to drug treatment, job training, adult education, counseling and other services. Research suggests that this problem-solving approach to justice works: community courts in other cities have helped reduce crime while improving public trust and involvement in the justice system. I am so proud of the collaborative effort.
Source: 2009 State of the City Address at Newark Symphony Hall , Feb 9, 2009

Rated B+ by NORML, indicating a pro-drug-reform stance.

Booker scores B+ by the NORML on drug reform

OnTheIssues.org interprets the 2016 NORML scores as follows:

About NORML (from their website, www.norml.org):

National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law's mission is to move public opinion sufficiently to achieve the repeal of marijuana prohibition so that the responsible use of cannabis by adults is no longer subject to penalty.

NORML is a nonprofit, public-interest lobby that for more than 30 years has provided a voice for those Americans who oppose marijuana prohibition. We represent the interests of the tens of millions of Americans who smoke marijuana responsibly and believe the recreational and medicinal use of marijuana should no longer be a crime.

NORML supports the removal of all criminal penalties for the private possession & responsible use of marijuana by adults, including the cultivation for personal use, and the casual nonprofit transfers of small amounts. This model is called "decriminalization."

NORML additionally supports the development of a legally controlled market for marijuana, where consumers could purchase it from a safe, legal and regulated source. This model is referred to as "legalization."

NORML believes that marijuana smoking is not for kids and should only be used responsibly by adults. As with alcohol consumption, it must never be an excuse for misconduct or other bad behavior. Driving or operating heavy equipment while impaired from marijuana should be prohibited.

NORML strongly supports the right of patients to use marijuana as a medicine when their physician recommends it to relieve pain and suffering.

Lastly, NORML supports the right of farmers to commercially cultivate hemp for industrial purposes, such as food and fiber production.

Source: NORML website 16_NORML on Nov 8, 2016

Other candidates on Drugs: Cory Booker on other issues:
2020 Presidential Democratic Primary Candidates:
V.P.Joe Biden (D-DE)
Mayor Mike Bloomberg (I-NYC)
Gov.Steve Bullock (D-MT)
Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-IN)
Rep.Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI)
Sen.Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Gov.Deval Patrick (D-MA)
Sen.Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Sen.Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

2020 GOP and Independent Candidates:
Rep.Justin Amash (Libertarian-MI)
CEO Don Blankenship (C-WV)
Gov.Lincoln Chafee (L-RI)
Howie Hawkins (Green-NY)
Gov.Larry Hogan (R-MD)
Gov.John Kasich (R-OH)
V.P.Mike Pence (R-IN)
Gov.Mark Sanford (R-SC)
CEO Howard Schultz (I-WA)
Pres.Donald Trump (R-NY)
Gov.Jesse Ventura (I-MN)
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Rep.Joe Walsh (R-IL)
Gov.Bill Weld (L-NY,R-MA)
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External Links about Cory Booker:

2020 Withdrawn Democratic Candidates:
State Rep.Stacey Abrams (D-GA)
Sen.Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Sen.Cory Booker (D-NJ)
Secy.Julian Castro (D-TX)
Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-NYC)
Rep.John Delaney (D-MD)
Sen.Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Sen.Mike Gravel (D-AK)
Sen.Kamala Harris (D-CA)
Gov.John Hickenlooper (D-CO)
Gov.Jay Inslee (D-WA)
Mayor Wayne Messam (D-FL)
Rep.Seth Moulton (D-MA)
Rep.Beto O`Rourke (D-TX)
Rep.Tim Ryan (D-CA)
Adm.Joe Sestak (D-PA)
CEO Tom Steyer (D-CA)
Rep.Eric Swalwell (D-CA)
Marianne Williamson (D-CA)
CEO Andrew Yang (D-NY)

Page last updated: Feb 23, 2020