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Cory Booker criticizes ‘senators bragging about their pot use’

In an MSNBC interview, the N.J. Democrat made an implicit criticism of his fellow 2020 presidential contenders on the issue of marijuana use.

Sen. Cory Booker.
Sen. Cory Booker.Read moreAlex Brandon / AP

Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.) appeared to take a swipe at two of his fellow 2020 presidential hopefuls during an MSNBC interview Monday night in which he criticized “senators bragging about their pot use.”

Booker did not mention anyone by name during the "Hardball" interview with host Chris Matthews. But he suggested that it was inappropriate for lawmakers to make light of the issue when some people face legal repercussions for similar actions.

"We have presidential candidates — senators — bragging about their pot use while there are kids who can't get a job because they have a nonviolent offense," Booker said.

In a radio interview last month, Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.), who is running for president, acknowledged that she has used marijuana in the past, saying: “Half my family is from Jamaica; are you kidding me? And I did inhale.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) another 2020 candidate, has also recently spoken about having used marijuana, although his comments were not as widely reported as Harris'. “Didn’t do a whole lot for me. My recollection is I nearly coughed my brains out, so it’s not my cup of tea,” Sanders said in an interview this month with the same radio program, The Breakfast Club.

Representatives of the Booker, Harris, and Sanders campaigns did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday night.

Booker's remarks in the MSNBC interview came a day after he made a similar statement during a campaign event in Davenport, Iowa.

In response to a question about marijuana policy and criminal justice, Booker noted that “poor people and — way disproportionately — people of color” are affected by nonviolent drug charges for “doing things that two of the last three presidents admitted to doing.”

"We have presidential candidates and congresspeople and senators that now talk about their marijuana use almost as if it's funny," he said. "But meanwhile, in 2017, we had more arrests for marijuana possession in this country than all the violent crime arrests combined."

He told the crowd that he is "all for legalizing marijuana," but that it needs to be part of a broader policy shift on the issue.

“Do not talk to me about legalizing marijuana unless in the same breath you talk to me about expunging the records of millions of people that are suffering with not being able to find a job,” he said, prompting applause from the crowd.