Racial disparity in New Jersey prohibition
Between 2010 and 2018, Black people were 3.5 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis across the state. In certain counties, that discrepancy shoots up to over 13. And according to the ACLU, the disparity has gotten worse over time—in 2000, Black people were arrested 2.2 times as often.
“New Jersey averaging 32,000 arrests a year for low-level, nonviolent, minor possession of cannabis—and 80% of those arrested were people who look like me—is not a fluke or happenstance,” said Leo Bridgewater, Director of Veterans Outreach for Minorities 4 Medical Marijuana (M4MM) and an advocate in the state’s effort for cannabis reform.
He and others involved in New Jersey’s legalization process, who spoke to Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary via email, weighed in on how Garden State lawmakers should proceed from here on out to create an industry that can begin to compensate for many years of racially biased law enforcement.
What will it take for a fair industry?
Recent estimates from The New York Times project that legal cannabis will bring the state of New Jersey more than $125 million in annual revenue. In many other legalized states—from early-movers like Colorado to newcomers like Illinois—markets are dominated by white-owned businesses, who often control 80 to 90% of state industries.
“There have always been glaring social justice concerns and obvious inequity in the high number of arrests of minority residents. Now, finally, this is the time for it to stop,” said Assemblyman Jamel Holley in a statement to the media announcing the bill’s signing.