LISTEN: Cory Booker, friend to the pharmaceutical industry, hopes cannabis legalization will propel him to the presidency

Cory Booker on the Tom Joyner Morning Show
 

New Jersey senator Cory Booker announced his bid for the presidency this week, calling for the legalization of cannabis as a focal point of his campaign. Speaking to the Tom Joyner Morning Show, Booker kicked off the 2020 race stating, "[i]t means changing our drug laws. Ending prohibition against marijuana."

The senator joins a growing list of Democrats hoping to unseat President Donald Trump in the upcoming election, including California senator Kamala Harris and Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren. In announcing his candidacy, Booker highlighted the racial disparity in drug sentencing laws, noting that black cannabis users are four-times more like to be arrested than their white counterparts.

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"We do not have equal justice under the law," he said. "I believe in redemption."

"This is a cancer on the soul of our country," he continued, talking about mass incarceration. "Too many of our children are being shuttled into cages."

Booker has been a champion of cannabis reform in the past, having introduced the Marijuana Justice Act into Congress, a bill that sought to legalize cannabis at the federal level while seeking justice for minorities unjustly affected by the war on drugs.

“Descheduling marijuana and applying that change retroactively to people currently serving time for marijuana offenses is a necessary step in correcting this unjust system,” said Booker in a statement at the time. “States have so far led the way in reforming our criminal justice system and it’s about time the federal government catches up and begins to assert leadership.”

Still, as a senator in New Jersey, Booker has at times been criticized for his relationship with the pharmaceutical industry. According to the website Open Secrets, the senator has taken a fair share of PAC money from the industry —$57,500 in 2016 and $161,000 from companies such as Becton, Dickinson & Co, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Pfizer.

It was Booker that helped kill a bill introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders that would have lowered prescription drug prices. It led many progressives to wonder just how deep the relationship between Booker and the pharmaceutical industry went.

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In 2017, Booker vowed to stop taking PAC money from Big Pharma.

In a video released on Friday announcing his candidacy, Booker said: "The history of our nation is defined by collective action; by interwoven destinies of slaves and abolitionists; of those born here and those who chose America as home; of those who took up arms to defend our country, and those who linked arms to challenge and change it."

 

*Header Image: JD Lasica

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