Earlier this year, New Jersey became the latest of 14 states to legalize the recreational use of cannabis for adults 21 and older. Though the legislation signed by Gov. Phil Murphy decriminalizes the use or possession of up to six ounces of cannabis, putting an end to disproportionate arrests in communities of color, faith leaders in South Jersey are demanding more from state leadership to mitigate the fallout from within the Black community from earlier drug laws.
Rev. Charles Boyer, pastor of Bethel AME Church in Trenton who until earlier this month had led its Woodbury congregation, is founding director of Salvation and Social Justice. Boyer says that he was influenced to mesh his ministry with social justice back when he was in seminary.
"It really became that way because of the seminary. I went to really emphasizing the connection between justice work and the emergence of the Black church and even the ministry of Jesus, so it's inseparable to me," said Boyer.
Boyer's social justice group fought for the decriminalization of marijuana in the state, but now, the group is demanding reparations for the Black community, arguing the war on drugs specifically targeted Black communities, stripped parents away from children and limited wealth opportunities from the already-marginalized group.
"Reparations are in order. So we fought not only for the decriminalization of it all, but if legalization was to take place we felt that there needed to be not only economic stake in the market but also dollars from tax revenue that go back to Black communities that have been targeted because of the drug war, particularly cannabis," said Boyer.