The War on Drugs damaged communities that have been historically targeted by biased policing and racial profiling; it is time to right those wrongs
Now that the New Jersey state Senate was unable to pass the marijuana legalization bill (S-2703) and the expungement bill (S-3205), the voters will have an opportunity to decide in a 2020 ballot referendum question. If the referendum passes, what would legalization look like? Although, marijuana legalization would create job opportunities for many people, there are still many restorative justice components that have not been clearly defined. As marijuana legalization goes mainstream, it is easy to forget the history behind its prohibition.
When President Richard Nixon signed the Controlled Substance Act (CSA) of 1970, marijuana was classified as a schedule I drug. This is the category for drugs with no medical use and high potential for abuse. Despite having scientific evidence and reports of the effects of marijuana, President Nixon wanted to take a hard stand and wage the War on Drugs. He appointed Raymond Shafer, former governor of Pennsylvania, to the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, to conduct a study on the effects of marijuana. In the report, Shafer recommended that Congress decriminalize possession of marijuana. Based on Oval Office tapes that were declassified in 2002, the Shafer report went against what Nixon wanted, which was to obscure the clear differences between marijuana and other hard drugs. Nixon championed the War on Drugs, which allows de facto racial profiling, discrimination, and disenfranchisement to affect the most vulnerable communities in the United States.