You Can STILL go to Jail for Weed in NJ

Brandon McKoy

Last week NJ voters overwhelmingly amended our state’s constitution to permit the adult use of recreational cannabis in NJ. We’ve examined what’s next as NJ lawmakers work to carry out the will of the voters.

Long story short: between now and whenever legal cannabis sales begin, people in NJ will keep getting locked up for something voters just legalized by a two-to-one margin. When those arrest results are tabulated in a year or two, I’d bet my last bag of weed that the racial disparity of pot arrests will persist.

Let’s examine how (mostly) black people will keep getting locked up for weed in NJ.


1️⃣. The 21+ age restriction on recreation cannabis in New Jersey leaves 19- and 20-year-olds without legal protections in a state that just legalized cannabis. It’s doubtful cops in, say, Princeton or Cherry Hill or Montclair will be locking up white kids for weed anytime soon. But in places like Paterson or Atlantic City, what’s to stop police from enforcing our incoherent cannabis police to punish Black and Latino kids like they’ve been doing since forever?


2️⃣. More resources for Law Enforcement? NJ Senator Nick Scutari sired the worst medical marijuana program in the nation and so his leadership on the recreational side has left many reform advocates feeling underwhelmed. Mr Scutari chairs the same  Senate Judiciary Committee which today debated and advanced a legalization scheme that earmarked cannabis sales tax back to police budgets throughout the state. Ostensibly it’s for sniffer dogs and DUI training but, man, can you say tone-deaf, Senator Scutari??

Brandon McKoy runs NJ Policy Perspective, a  lefty-leaning policy think tank.

He’s not impressed.

“At first reading of NJ’s #cannabis bill draft, not only does it only apply the sales tax meaning it raises a paltry amount of funds, the vast majority of those funds goes to 🥁 🥁 🥁 police departments! You can’t make this up. This is the height of dark comedy!” Mr McKoy rued on Twitter. “And then the rest goes to the general fund because of course it does… This bill does NOTHING for racial & reparative justice & is a slap in the face to all the communities harmed by the drug war that deserve real support & investment to address the wounds of prohibition.”

Lizzie Foley admins social medial for Action Together NJ. She’s urging her progressive cohorts to lobby Governor Murphy to veto the current bill and start from scratch.

“Senators Steve Sweeney and Nick Scutari are pushing a bill that uses the tax revenue from marijuana sales to fund the police and give them more tools to make arrests,” Ms Foley warned. “This money was supposed to go toward reinvesting and repairing the damage done to the communities most harmed by the war on drugs. They tried to sneak this bill past us when we were all distracted by the presidential election. But we can walk and chew gum. Here’s what we need to do today. Call Gov Murphy to tell him to not sign SB21/AB21. He’s going to be under a lot of pressure to sign this bill if it passes. Let him know we have his back if he doesn’t.”

(Note to Governor Murphy: we have you back if you hold out for a fairer piece of legislation!)


3️⃣. No home-grow. The home-cultivation of medical- and recreational cannabis is strictly forbidden in NJ putting NJ out-of-line with nearly all other states (both red and blue) which permit some degree of home cultivation. Giving the dispensaries a monopoly over NJ’s cannabis market leaves large swathes of cannabis production- and consumption outside of regulation and subject to arrest and/or incarceration.

That’s the opposite of what voters approved at the ballot box last week.

NJ Senator Gerry Cardinale is Trenton’s venerable jolly rightwing contrarian. During today’s Judiciary

Cardinale (R-39).

Committee hearing, Senator Cardinale pressed ACLU-NJ’s Sarah Fajardo why no home grow in NJ.

I upped the volume, eager to hear why not for myself.

But before Ms. Fajardo could reply, Senator Scutari barked out “I CAN ANSWER THAT!” before uncorking a very long five-minute soliloquy, vamping hard to quash that home grow debate at his own hearing.


Jay Lassiter is an award-winning writer, podcaster, and videographer who, as America’s first press-credentialed state house blogger, helped pioneer the new media landscape we’re currently living in. 



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3 responses to “You Can STILL go to Jail for Weed in NJ”

  1. as a homegrow advocate, I’d love for you to elaborate on the content of Senator Scutari’s 5 minute soliloquy. Thank you for all that you do.

  2. There is a natural and unalienable right. Prohibition failed because nobody followed the unjust law. They rather freely and overwhelmingly responsibly exercised the personal liberty. The State Legislature put up a decade’s worth of roadblock from carrying out the will of the people whom they were elected to serve. If they cannot quickly figure how to secure the blessings of liberty for free citizens, their government will disintegrate.

    Perhaps we can architect the next government over a 21st Century networking infrastructure and quickly bring about a broad and sustainable sense of Liberty and Prosperity here in The Garden State. Welcome visionary leadership going forward.

  3. Without home grow it is no legalization in my opinion.
    Every legalization initiative should explicitly allow for that.

    Sin taxes also contradict legalization. Sin taxes are unjust und illogical.

    They hardly prevent anyone from doing something, but only the poor are limited.

    Consumers of product X need to fund the state, but consumers of product Y don’t. Where is the logic in that?

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