Pubdate: Mon, 19 Jun 2017
Source: Herald News (West Paterson, NJ)
Copyright: 2017 North Jersey Media Group Inc.
Author: Roseanne Scotti


New Jersey is gearing up for an intense campaign for marijuana
legalization. Senate Bill 3195 and Assembly Bill 4872, which would
legalize marijuana in New Jersey, have been introduced by state Sen.
Nicholas P. Scutari, D-Union, and Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Mercer.

The Drug Policy Alliance commends the sponsors for their leadership on
this issue and we will be working with them to ensure that the final
legislation contains provisions missing from the bill that are
essential to establishing a fair and equitable marijuana market and
repairing the disproportionate harm that marijuana prohibition has
inflicted on communities of color. To highlight the need for these
provisions, the Drug Policy Alliance is releasing a short video, made
in collaboration with Brave New Films, which explores the current and
historical impacts of marijuana prohibition on communities of color.
The video features racial and social justice advocates from across New

Marijuana laws have had a disproportionate impact on communities of
color. African Americans are three times more likely to be arrested
for marijuana possession than whites even though both use marijuana at
the same rates. Anecdotal evidence suggests similar disparities for
Latinos. In addition to the severe long-term consequences of a
marijuana conviction, marijuana laws have been used to support biased
policies like stop and frisk, racial profiling and the deportation of
people of color.

As more states legalize marijuana, there is a growing recognition of
this disparate impact and the need to address it. In Maryland, a judge
recently put that state's medical marijuana program on hold due to the
lack of diversity among those granted licenses for the program.
California's law is the gold standard for fair and equitable marijuana
legalization. The law mandates retroactive record expungement and
sentence reduction, decriminalization of all marijuana offenses for
minors and automatic record destruction at age 18, allocation of $50
million of tax revenue to communities of color annually, low barriers
to entry in the industry and no bar to the industry for people with
most prior drug convictions.

New Jersey must learn from these other states and ensure that its
marijuana legalization legislation contains provisions to address past
harms and create a level playing field in this new industry.

As part of our legalization campaign, the Drug Policy Alliance and its
partners will work to ensure policies including automatic and
retroactive expungement for people previously convicted of marijuana
offenses, investment of the revenue generated into those communities
disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition, and equal
opportunity to access the jobs and wealth generated by the marijuana
industry are incorporated into any legalization legislation.

Rev. Charles Boyer, pastor of Bethel A.M.E. Church in Woodbury, who is
featured in the video, said, "Marijuana legalization must be
understood from a moral perspective. As an African American faith
leader, I have seen firsthand how the war on drugs has
disproportionately devastated my community even though all communities
use marijuana at similar rates. A conviction for marijuana possession
can have severe long-term consequences and can make it difficult or
impossible to secure employment, housing, student loans, or even a
driver's license. Marijuana legalization in New Jersey must address
these harms and repair those communities most impacted by our failed
marijuana policies."

And Kathy Wright, executive director of the New Jersey Parents' Caucus
and the mother of a son who has been arrested for marijuana
possession, recently told Rolling Stone why she supports marijuana
legalization. "Getting wrapped up in the juvenile justice system can
completely derail a child's life," said. "Legalizing and removing the
criminalization of marijuana would allow us to put funding into
much-needed community services."

The release of this new video serves to launch the Drug Policy
Alliance's campaign to legalize marijuana in New Jersey. Marijuana
prohibition is costly, unfair and ineffective. New Jersey arrests more
than 22,000 people a year for marijuana possession at a cost of more
than $125 million to New Jersey taxpayers. This failed policy
criminalizes otherwise law-abiding people and wastes resources that
would be better spent on projects that support our families and

We will end this failed policy and ensure that marijuana legalization
will be fair and equitable.

Roseanne Scotti is senior director of Resident States and state
director of New Jersey for the Drug Policy Alliance.
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