Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) says that while he believes the justice system has effectively handled prosecution against President Joe Biden’s son, there’s still a double-standard in the country that has allowed presidents and members of Congress to admit to past marijuana use with impunity while subjecting thousands of less privileged people to punitive cannabis laws.
In an interview with CNN’s “Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace” that was released late last month, the senator was asked whether he believes that there’s a partisan bias in the criminal legal system, pointing out that the Justice Department offered Hunter Biden a deal in which he will plead guilty to two tax evasion charges and avoid prosecution over separate allegations that he lied about being an active user of an illegal drug when filling out a federal form to purchase a firearm.
Wallace contrasted the case with the ongoing federal prosecution of former President Donald Trump, who is facing dozens of felony counts in connection with classified documents he allegedly kept and displayed unlawfully after leaving office. Booker said that he wasn’t familiar with the details of Biden’s prosecution, but he did have something to say about cannabis-related enforcement disparities.
“Look, you’re talking to a guy who has seen the worst of the criminal justice system in America—where you see a two-tier system,” Booker said. “If you’re a congressperson, a senator or a president, you can admit to using marijuana, but we are a nation that has been arresting young, low-income Black and brown people—literally thousands in America who can’t get jobs—for doing things that…at least…four presidents have admitted to doing.”
“So I don’t know the particulars of this case. I imagine that there were prosecutors—a Trump-appointed prosecutor, who like many prosecutors are going after it with vigor—and they came to a plea deal,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned in the work that I have to do, I think justice has taken its course.”
As part of the plea deal, the Justice Department is not expected to pursue criminal charges against the president’s son over his alleged unlawful possession of a firearm while being an active user of an illicit substance. Before details about the deal were announced, attorneys for Biden reportedly told DOJ officials that a recent federal court ruling on gun rights for people who use marijuana should invalidate any charges related to allegations that he lied about his drug use on the federal firearms purchase form.
Lying on the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) form is a felony offense—but the constitutionality of the underlying drug question itself has come under scrutiny in several federal courts, at least as far as cannabis is concerned. Biden’s counsel specifically cited a February ruling in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma that deemed the ban preventing marijuana consumers from buying and possessing firearms to be unconstitutional.
Trump’s charges, meanwhile, are related to allegations that he improperly and illegally stored highly sensitive documents—at times, revealing them to people without clearance—in violation of the Espionage Act.
Booker said on CNN that he did not see a partisan double-standard, even if he does believe it to be true that high-level officials are able to get away with admissions of illegal drug use that have landed countless others behind bars.
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The senator, who has championed cannabis legalization efforts in Congress, is separately pushing for cannabis expungements to be part of a bipartisan marijuana banking reform bill that may receive a Senate committee vote this month.
Booker has said that lawmakers are working to “resurrect” the package of marijuana reform legislation from last session, acknowledging that failure to advance a banking fix for the industry “literally means that hundreds of businesses go out of business.”
In April, he also notably called marijuana a “dangerous drug” that he nonetheless wants to legalize and regulate.