On Friday, Democratic Sen. Cory booker officially announced his bid to become President of the United States in 2020. Riding the wave of progressivism ushered in by freshman U.S. congresswomen like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, Booker presented himself as a justice candidate in Friday’s announcement. As the Democratic field of presidential hopefuls continues to grow, Booker will have some definite competition in that department. But what better way to attract voters than to make marijuana legalization a focal point his presidential campaign?
Sen. Cory Booker Kicks of Presidential Bid With Call for Legal Marijuana
In his first radio interview after announcing his run for President in 2020, Sen. Cory Booker called for legal weed across the country. As a Senator, Booker has pushed for wide-ranging criminal legal reforms, including changes to U.S drug laws. In fact, in August 2017 Cory Booker introduced a major bill in the Senate, the Marijuana Justice Act. Back then, Booker said that it was “long past due that we fix our nation’s deeply broken drug laws, which disproportionately impact low-income communities and communities of color.”
Speaking with the Morning Show’s Tom Joyner on Friday, Sen. Booker echoed those sentiments. He spoke of how black people are about four times more likely to face arrest for marijuana possession despite similar and likely lower use rates compared to whites. “It means changing our drug laws. Ending prohibition against marijuana,” Booker told Joyner.
Drug reform and criminal justice causes aren’t the only focal point of Booker’s campaign platform, either. Appearing on SiriusXM’s Joe Madison Show, Booker stressed three key areas: environmental justice, economic justice and health care. “We’re falling short on economic justice. We are falling short on environmental justice,” Booker told Madison.
Crucially, cannabis legalization intersects all three off those key areas. Even if Democrats can’t legalize adult-use cannabis at the federal level, an end to the federal prohibition on medical marijuana would be a huge win for patients, healthcare providers and the industry.
Cory Booker Used to Accept Major Financial Contributions from Big Pharma
However, like many Democratic candidates eager to beef up their progressive credentials, Booker has a record that complicates the picture. Before serving as New Jersey Senator, Booker was the mayor of Newark, New Jersey. During that time, despite his criminal justice reform advocacy and support for the First Step Act, Booker accepted major financial contributions from the pharmaceutical industry and Wall Street. Critics of Booker on the left point out that in 2014 he was the top Democratic recipient of Wall Street money, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
In 2018, however, and likely eyeing his 2019 Presidential bid, Booker announced that he would no longer accept corporate political contributions. Speaking with NPR’s “Morning Edition” Booker said that his “pause” on accepting PAC donations from Wall Street and Big Pharma was necessary because “it arouses so much criticism.”
In addition to the bad optics, accepting money from Big Pharma also compromises Sen. Booker’s advocacy for progressive policies. Republican and conservative lawmakers who have a history of opposing criminal legal reforms and marijuana legalization are very often in the pockets of wealthy corporations in the pharmaceutical and financial industries. Indeed, medical cannabis is increasingly coming into direct competition with pharmaceutical companies, as more patients use cannabis treatments as an alternative to dangerous and addictive prescription medications, like opioids.