NJ Marijuana Coalition: Legalization Bill Needs More Work to Advance Racial Justice

June 08, 2018

NJ United for Marijuana Reform appreciates Sen. Scutari for putting a proposal forward, but bill falls short on necessary racial and social justice priorities

Leading advocates for marijuana reform in New Jersey today offered a mixed reaction to the introduction of Senator Nicholas Scutari’s marijuana legalization bill in the Senate. 

New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform (NJUMR), a coalition of leaders and organizations in the New Jersey law enforcement, civil rights, and medical communities, were grateful to have a bill up for discussion in S2702, the New Jersey Marijuana Legalization Act, but NJUMR steering committee members urged lawmakers to go back to the drawing board to meaningfully address the racially disparate harms of the war on drugs.

The following is a joint statement from the steering committee of New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform:

“The legalization bill that’s just been introduced is a step in the right direction, but not yet the bill that New Jerseyans deserve, and we know our lawmakers can do better.

“We will continue working with our elected officials, with the strong support of New Jerseyans across the state, to get to a bill that can remedy past harms, expand individual freedoms, and create an inclusive marketplace where people harmed by the drug war can thrive. 

“We applaud the efforts of Governor Murphy, the Senate, and the Assembly, who have been working hard to craft policies to legalize marijuana for adults in New Jersey. Senator Scutari’s bill, though an improvement on previous versions, does not get us close enough to advancing racial justice or repairing the devastation wrought by the war on drugs. 

“We welcome the language in the bill that aims to address equity in licensing and on-site consumption, but the specifics of those proposals and the bill as a whole still miss the mark. 

“To even begin advancing racial justice in the aftermath of the drug war, we need several provisions – provisions that the bill does not have. 

  • We need automatic expungements, which the current bill does not have. 
  • We need to give a fair shot at getting licenses for people with prior criminal convictions, which the bill currently excludes.
  • We need real investment in communities hit hardest by the war on marijuana, which the bill lacks. 
  • We need home-grow options, omitted in the bill.  

“People of color have disproportionately borne the brunt of marijuana arrests, and they still bear the brunt of those arrests. Legalization needs to ensure that the people most affected by the drug war are able to escape the devastating effects of an arrest and have opportunities within the legalized marijuana marketplace. 

“Simply put: This bill falls short of what New Jersey needs. We look forward to working with New Jersey’s leaders to create a better one.” 

NJUMR’s steering committee comprises: American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, JH Barr of the NJ State Municipal Prosecutors Association, Bill Caruso of Archer & Greiner, Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, Latino Action Network, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, NAACP New Jersey State Conference, and NORML New Jersey.

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