On Monday, the New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Senate Bill 3195 at 11:00 am in Committee Room 4 in the New Jersey Statehouse. Senate Bill 3195, introduced last month by Senator Nicholas P. Scutari (D-Middlesex, Somerset, Union), would legalize small amounts of marijuana for adults 21 years and older.
The Drug Policy Alliance and other civil rights and racial justice organizations have expressed concern over Senator Scutari’s proposed legislation. While they commend Senator Scutari for his leadership on marijuana reform, they are disappointed that the legislation introduced does not include essential components to create a fair and equitable marijuana market in New Jersey.
“Marijuana legalization in New Jersey must be fair and equitable and must include policies to repair past harms and encourage participation in the industry,” said Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Marijuana laws in New Jersey have disproportionately harmed communities of color. African Americans are three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites even though both use marijuana at similar rates. Legislation to legalize marijuana in our state must include policies to right these wrongs.”
Richard Smith, President of the NAACP New Jersey State Conference, also supports fair and equitable marijuana legalization in New Jersey. “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,” he said.
“Marijuana legalization must be understood from a moral perspective,” said Reverend Charles Boyer, Pastor of Bethel A.M.E. Church in Woodbury. “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 is advocating to include specific racial justice elements into Senate Bill 3195 that will encourage full participation in the industry by communities disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition and repair past harms.These policies include:
- Protections for those who apply for a license or employment in the industry who have prior arrests and/or convictions;
- Access to the industry for individuals from different socioeconomic backgrounds;
- Requirement that the state shall actively seek to achieve a diverse industry;
- Provisions intended to repair communities most harmed by marijuana prohibition; and
- Civil penalties for marijuana activities that occur outside the new legal system to avoid the continuation of a criminal system that disproportionately harms communities of color.
To highlight the need for these provisions, Drug Policy Alliance released 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 Jersey.
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 Institute for Social Justice, 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, Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, Rev. Charles Boyer, Bethel AME Church of Woodbury, and Rev. Robin Tanner, Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation.