Pubdate: Thu, 15 Jun 2017
Source: Asbury Park Press (NJ)
Copyright: 2017 Asbury Park Press
Author: Ken Serrano


The legalization of small amounts of marijuana for people 21 and over
came before the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday as the committee
considers abill introduced by Sen. Nicolas Scutari, D-Union.

According to Scutari's office, no vote was taken. (To listen to the
hearing, click here.)

In the bill, Scutari mentions the cost to New Jersey for enforcement.
Marijuana possession arrests made up three out of every five drug
arrests in New Jersey in 2012. The state shells out about $127 million
per year on marijuana possession enforcement efforts.

Scutari also raises one of the points advocates favoring the
legalization of marijuana underscore, the racial disparity of
possession arrests. Black New Jerseyans are three times more likely to
be arrested for possession than white New Jerseyans.

In advance of the hearing, the American Civil Liberties Union of New
Jersey released a report buttressing the racial disparity argument
with data from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports. Here's our article:

Black people are disproportionately arrested for marijuana possession
in nearly every town in New Jersey, according to a report by the ACLU
of New Jersey.

But nowhere do they have a better chance of a pot arrest than in Point
Pleasant Beach.

African-Americans were nearly 32 times more likely to be arrested than 
white people in Point Pleasant Beach, where black people account for one 
percent of the population. They make up 23 percent of the marijuana
possession arrests in the borough, according to the report, "Unequal & 
Unfair: New Jersey's War on Marijuana Users."

Point Pleasant Beach Police Chief Joseph Michigan said it doesn't
matter if you're black or white in the borough.

"If you are smoking marijuana in the borough of Point Pleasant Beach
regardless of race or gender, you are going to be arrested because
it's against the law in New Jersey," he said in an immediate response
to the report.

Racially uneven arrests happen all over the state. And it's getting
worse, according to the report.

In 2013, the disparities rose to their highest level, when black
people in New Jersey were three times more likely to be arrested for
marijuana possession than white people, despite similar usage rates,
according to the report. In 2000, black people were 2.2 times more
likely to be arrested than white people. In 2013, although black New
Jerseyans made up 14 percent of the state population, they made up 36
percent of all marijuana possession arrests, according to the report.

"The war on marijuana is a war on marijuana users, and it's
disproportionately a war on black communities," ACLU-NJ Interim
Executive Director Diane Du Brule said in a statement.

Blacks are disproportionately arrested for marijuana possession in
every county in New Jersey. To see a video of a tip app used by the
Ocean County Prosecutor's Office, scroll to the top of this story.

Some counties have huge disparities and these counties also have the
smallest black populations. From 2000-2013, Warren, Hunterdon, and
Ocean had some of the highest disparities and have black populations
at or below 3 percent.

"New Jersey's marijuana laws are failing people of color," said
Richard Smith, president of the NAACP New Jersey State Conference said
in a statement. "Our state's criminal justice system has placed a
disproportionate burden on people of color, and ending marijuana
prohibition for adults is a start to lifting it."

The report used the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting data and Census

The group contends that the data shows why New Jersey should legalize
the recreational use of marijuana.

ACLU-NJ Policy Counsel Dianna Houenou said the disparities have caused
a civil rights crisis in the state.

Houenou said an earlier national report by the ACLU on racial
disparities in marijuana arrests showed New Jersey ranked 34th in the
country, based on 2010 data, meaning 33 other states arrested black
people at even greater rates. Only Hawaii arrested white and black
people at an even rate, she said.

"That doesn't mean New Jersey is doing well," she said.

Police in Ocean County in 2013 arrested black people for marijuana
possession at five times the rate of white people, the highest in the
state, according to the report.

Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato wanted to read the report
before responding, said his spokesman, Al Della Fave.

Monmouth County was ranked fourth. Monmouth County Prosecutor
Christopher Gramiccioni did not immediately respond to a request for

The ACLU has asked the New Jersey Attorney General to investigate the
disparities. The attorney general's office declined comment.

The report's findings include:

* Marijuana arrests have risen. In 2013, New Jersey law enforcement
made 24,067 marijuana possession arrests, 26 percent more than in
2000, when police made 19,607 arrests. Between 2000 and 2013, New
Jersey law enforcement agencies made 279,623 small-scale marijuana
possession arrests.

* The data does not show Latino arrests since the FBI Uniform Crime
Reports used for the ACLU's report does not distinguish between
Latinos and whites.

* Monmouth had the second highest number of marijuana arrests from
2000-2013, 28,354. Bergen County had 28,993 during the same time frame.

* Ocean County had three of the top five towns for highest per capita
marijuana arrests in 2013: Seaside Park (1), Ship Bottom (3) and Beach
Haven (4).
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MAP posted-by: Matt