Today, the New Jersey Office of the Drug Policy Alliance launched its racial justice focused marijuana legalization campaign with a video produced by Brave New Films. The video highlights the racist history of marijuana laws and features civil rights and racial justice advocates from New Jersey who support legalization.
“African Americans are three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites even though both use marijuana at similar rates,” said Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Marijuana laws in New Jersey have a disproportionate impact on communities of color. Our campaign will focus on creating a fair and equitable marijuana market that provides access to the industry and repairs past harms to communities of color.”
Senate Bill 3195 / Assembly Bill 4872 which would legalize marijuana in New Jersey was recently introduced by Senator Nicholas P. Scutari (D-Middlesex, Somerset, Union) and Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Hunterdon, Mercer). While the Drug Policy Alliance commends the sponsors for their leadership on this issue, it was disappointed to see certain elements missing from the bill that are essential to establishing a fair and equitable marijuana market in New Jersey. As part of its legalization campaign, the Drug Policy Alliance and its partners will work to ensure policies like 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 the legislation.
The video released today details the history of the war on marijuana and highlights the success of states that have already legalized marijuana. Advocates in the video include, Richard Smith of the NAACP New Jersey State Conference, Reverend Charles Boyer of Bethel A.M.E. Church of Woodbury, Kathy Wright of the New Jersey Parents’ Caucus, Alexandra Goncalves-Pena of the American Friends Service Committee Immigrant Rights Program, and Juan Cartagena of LatinoJustice PRLDEF.
“I support fair and equitable marijuana legalization in New Jersey,” said Richard Smith, President of the NAACP New Jersey State Conference. “It is imperative that any legislation to legalize marijuana include policies that encourage full participation in the industry by communities disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and invests some of the revenue generated by legalization back into those communities.”
Reverend Charles Boyer, Pastor of Bethel A.M.E. Church of Woodbury 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.”
The New Solutions Campaign of the Drug Policy Alliance has advocated for criminal justice reforms in New Jersey for nearly a decade. Fair and equitable marijuana legalization is the next initiative in its campaign to reform New Jersey’s broken criminal justice system.
Organizations that have already signed onto the campaign include: Action Together – Burlington County, Action Together New Jersey, Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey, Campaign to End the New Jim Crow, Drug Policy Alliance, Faith is Our Pathway, Immigrant Rights Program-American Friends Service Committee, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, NAACP – New Jersey State Conference, New Jersey Association on Correction, New Jersey Citizen Action, New Jersey Parents’ Caucus, New Jersey Policy Perspective, New Jersey Working Families Alliance, Prison Watch Program-American Friends Service Committee, Salvation and Social Justice, Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of New Jersey, Volunteers of America – Delaware Valley Chapter, Women Who Never Give Up, and Rev. Charles Boyer, Bethel A.M.E. Church of Woodbury.