Newark Mayor Cory Booker defeated Republican Steve Lonegan in the U.S. Senate race on Oct. 16 by a 55%-44% margin. Booker replaces Frank Lautenberg. His term runs through 2014.
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."