On March 27, Senator Cory Booker introduced legislation to further reform the nation’s federal criminal justice system. The bill, titled the Next Step Act (S. 697), would build off of the reforms included in the First Step Act (P.L. 115-391), which was passed and signed into law at the end of the 115th Congress. The legislation would make substantial reforms to federal sentencing guidelines, prison conditions and reentry efforts. While the Next Step Act is primarily focused on federal prison reform, counties would still be impacted by this legislation, as counties operate 91 percent of the nation’s jails and play an integral role in the reentry process for individuals after release.
One provision in the legislation would remove cannabis from its current designation as a schedule 1 drug. A schedule 1 drug is defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. With 33 states and the District of Columbia legalizing cannabis for recreational and/or medical purposes, this declassification would provide states and localities access to federal funding to study the potential medical benefits of cannabis. Additionally, those states who have not legalized medical or recreational usage would be able to pursue decriminalization of cannabis without conflicting with federal law.
Counties support enactment of legislation that promotes the principles of federalism and local control of cannabis businesses with regard to medical and adult-use of cannabis under state law. NACo will work legislators to ensure the county priorities and adequate funding are included as part of any future criminal justice reform package.