During the Senate campaign, Booker called for "a structured national conversation about decriminalizing marijuana." His comments, delivered on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech at a church in Jersey City, reflect the growing tide of support for marijuana-law and prison reform. Here are some excerpts from Booker's speech:
• "Black people are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people, despite the fact that their usage rates are no different."
• "In New Jersey, blacks make up 14% of the state's population but make up over 60% of our state's prisons. There is something fundamentally wrong with those numbers."
• "I am fundamentally against private prisons. There's a profit motive to warehouse human beings. Think about what we're paying people for… The incentive actually is hey let's get this person out there so they come right back to prison."
More recently, Booker commented about marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington:
"If it's a failure, it's a failure. But if it's a success and it doesn't hurt public safety and improves the economy by providing greater opportunities, and doesn't cause more crime, then I will be open to legalization. But right now I fall on not doing it, but I am one of those people who is hungry to watch it play out. Medical marijuana programs, like the one in New Jersey, are something I think should be in every state; the drugs people have in their medicine cabinets are more dangerous than marijuana. It's ridiculous to not let very sick people have access to a drug, a legitimate drug, that can help improve their lives."