Although Monday’s four-hour joint committee hearing saw testimony from dozens of people both for and against legalization, many legislators ended up supporting the bills for social justice reasons.
State Sen. Pat Diegnan, D-Middlesex, said legalization would have far-reaching benefits, from legitimizing users to regulating production of the drug.
“The folks that are going to be most disappointed when this becomes a law in the state of New Jersey are drug dealers,” Diegnan said.
Faith leaders and community activists also attended the hearing in large numbers, urging lawmakers to provide solutions for people with pot possession convictions at the same time they legalized recreational marijuana.
Willie Dwayne Francois III, the pastor at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Pleasantville, said that current drug laws and their enforcement by police disproportionately impact communities of color. “I care about the lives that have been made plunder, lives that have been eaten up, sucked into this legal suction machine of mass incarceration,” he said.