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New Jersey’s Push for Cannabis Legalization Is a Matter of Social Justice

A new video from the Drug Policy Alliance shows the social and racial implications of New Jersey’s marijuana prohibition.

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A recreational cannabis legalization bill was filed in the New Jersey state senate last month, but with anti-weed Governor Chris Christie still in office until January, most lawmakers are waiting until 2018 to make any significant moves. For the national cannabis advocacy group the Drug Policy Alliance, though, a dead-serious legalization push has already started. To set the tone for New Jersey’s fight for legalization, the group already released a new video detailing the racial injustices of prohibition and positive social justice changes that could come with full-scale legalization.

In the video, a host of New Jersey’s social and political leaders talk about the dangers of the war on drugs, including the stark racial divide in cannabis arrests by race, with black residents three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite similar rates of use across racial lines. The video was directed by Brave New Films, a California based social justice non-profit and features local New Jersey leaders like Richard Smith of the NAACP New Jersey State Conference, Reverend Charles Boyer of Bethel A.M.E. Church of Woodbury, and Kathy Wright of the New Jersey Parents’ Caucus.

“I support fair and equitable marijuana legalization in New Jersey,” Smith, the President of the NAACP New Jersey State Conference, said. “It is imperative that any legislation to legalize marijuana include policies that encourage full participation in the industry by communities disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and invests some of the revenue generated by legalization back into those communities.”

New Jersey’s current legalization bill doesn’t include any racial equity provisions, and will not create a framework to expunge pre-existing criminal records from cannabis charges - both points of emphasis for the Drug Policy Alliance. 

“Marijuana laws in New Jersey have a disproportionate impact on communities of color. Our campaign will focus on creating a fair and equitable marijuana market that provides access to the industry and repairs past harms to communities of color.” Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said.

Watch the entire video above and keep your eyes peeled on MERRY JANE for more news on New Jersey's fight for legalization.