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Economic And Social Justice Are Also Issues
As embodied in state law and underlined by the CRC, when cannabis sales became legal in the Garden State, it was time to fulfill the promise of helping those disproportionately harmed by the War on Drugs, decriminalizing cannabis, eliminating registrations and implementing economic justice.
According to CRC Commissioner Charles Barker, who recently spoke directly to the cannabis companies at a monthly meeting, the state is not upholding its commitments to patient access, social equity and collective bargaining agreements.
Black communities are far too familiar with being excluded from the table. This time around we are securing our own priority seating. The statistics are clear. Between 2010-2019, New Jersey spent 11.6 billion dollars enforcing the drug war. New Jersey arrests more people for marijuana than almost any other state. Black people are three to four times more likely to be arrested than whites for marijuana possession despite similar rates of use. The numbers don’t lie, but they only tell half of the story.
The first licenses to sell recreational marijuana in New York will go to people who were casualties of the war on drugs, state officials said Wednesday.
People with marijuana-related convictions will get dibs on the first 100 to 200 retail cannabis licenses awarded by the state in an effort to redress the inequities of a justice system that locked up a disproportionate number of people of color for drug crimes.
But as with so many things in New Jersey, there was a catch.
After a series of compromises, the law also would direct a portion of cannabis state revenue to local police departments to train more officers to identify impaired drivers — known as Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) — whose methods were being challenged for being scientifically unreliable.
Even as the decades-old methods were being challenged in court, the Legislature committed more funding to the programs anyway, a move seen by many as a way to win the support of law enforcement and additional legislators.
Since 2015, Ed has operated a black market weed shop directly across from City Hall in Trenton. He opened the shop to protest to what he saw as unjust marijuana laws. And now, even though he could apply for a legal license, he doesn’t have faith in the state to equitably give access to potential Black sellers.
When New Jersey legalized adult-use months ago, equity received widespread attention — and it is an issue in legalization efforts now pending in the Pennsylvania legislature.
In the context of marijuana legalization, equity encompasses many issues, such as seeking to remedy the societal damages from the War on Drugs, which incarcerated tens of thousands of non-white individuals and left many more with arrest records that hinder chances for economic, educational, and employment advancement.
While 65 percent of New Jersey voters overwhelmingly approved legalization last November, state legislators still had some work to do to finalize the specific rules and regulations. The final law, for instance, stipulates that some marijuana-related activities will still be illegal, such as distribution and growing without a license.
As a New York-based cannabis entrepreneur, I celebrated as New Jersey's vote to legalize adult use cannabis passed by large margins last month. Unfortunately, that joy quickly soured: Legislators put forth a plan – A-21/S-21 – that lacked key social equity provisions won in other states, including allocating funds to help communities harmed by the War on Drugs and clear opportunities for minority communities to participate in the industry.
Here are some of the key differences between the measures passed Thursday by the Assembly Appropriations Committee and the Senate Budget Committee, according to the Associated Press:
It can take a while to determine the victor in a presidential election. But one winner was abundantly clear on Election Day.
Drugs, once thought to be the scourge of a healthy society, are getting public recognition as a part of American life. Where drugs were on the ballot on Tuesday, they won handily.
New Jersey, South Dakota, Montana and Arizona joined 11 other states that had already legalized recreational marijuana. Mississippi and South Dakota made medical marijuana legal, bringing the total to 35.