Menendez, Booker Among Senators Urging Feds to Respect Local Pot Laws

Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Bob Menendez (both D-N.J.). Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

As New Jersey officials move toward legalizing recreational use of marijuana, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators is asking the Trump administration to respect local laws regarding access to weed.

New Jersey Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker are among the lawmakers signing off on a letter urging the Senate Committee on Appropriations to continue Obama-era policies “to respect states’ laws regarding the regulation of marijuana” when finalizing fiscal year 2018 appropriations.

The letter argues that Trump administration policy changes toward marijuana under Attorney General Jeff Sessions have resulted in “disruption, confusion and uncertainty throughout the country. Citizens who have been acting in good faith based on federal and state assurances now feel exposed. This disruption may deny medications to the sick, push individuals back into illicit markets, and nullify the previously-effective regulations—all while thwarting the democratically-expressed will of the states.”

“It is our hope that the fiscal year 2018 appropriations will alleviate the turbulence the Attorney General’s abrupt decision has caused and that the appropriations will help preserve the strong regulatory frameworks the states have created,” the letter said.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy campaigned on a promise to legalize, and tax, recreational marijuana use in the Garden State.

But Murphy’s plans are far from being assured of approval by the state legislature, even though it is controlled by his party.

Several Democratic legislators have expressed concerns about legalization, and on Wednesday, Democratic state Sen. Ronald Rice and Republican Sen. Robert Singer announced plans to introduce a bipartisan bill to decriminalize recreational marijuana. Such a bill would provide an alternative to legislators worried about legalizing marijuana but also wanting to reduce the impact of minor drug arrests on peoples’ lives. However, the legislation could complicate Murphy’s efforts toward full legalization.

Rice, who chairs the Legislative Black Caucus, opposes legalization and has written that the move “is not the answer to the injustice, disparity issues and the discriminatory arrests of people of color.”

Rice has said decriminalization should be accompanied by the release of people incarcerated for use and possession of marijuana and expungement of their records.

Several states, including Colorado and California, decriminalized marijuana before eventually legalizing recreational use.

Murphy has said he supports legalization over decriminalization, since it allows for better regulation and the state can collect tax revenue from sales.

Menendez, Booker Among Senators Urging Feds to Respect Local Pot Laws