RICE STATEMENT ON ADVANCEMENT OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA AND EXPUNGEMENT BILLS
CALLS FOR DECRIMINALIZATION
Trenton – Senator Ronald L. Rice today released the following statement regarding Senate President Steve Sweeney’s announcement to move forward with legislation that will expunge marijuana-related criminal records and expand New Jersey’s medical marijuana program.
I’m thrilled that our legislative leadership is committing itself to the compassionate and humane expansion of our state’s medical marijuana program. By increasing the range of diagnosed conditions eligible for treatment and by authorizing more healthcare provider categories to prescribe, thousands more patients will receive relief from symptoms and suffering.
The medical marijuana bill will also lessen travel and cost burdens on patients by increasing their access to caregivers and allowing the convenience of purchasing greater quantities at each dispensary visit. In addition, by providing for a phaseout of taxes, this legislation makes treatment more affordable.
Whether loved ones are dealing with cancer, epilepsy, MS, end-of-life or a multitude of other conditions, we all care about someone in need of the benefits of medical marijuana. Passage of this bill would be an enormous win for them and for all New Jersey.
The expungement bill is an essential component in our Legislature’s quest to correct pervasive unfairness in law enforcement and judicial practices in our state. It would enable those who were targeted for marijuana arrests and then convicted and incarcerated unfairly, to begin the process of having their criminal records wiped clean. It would allow them to eventually participate fully in society and enjoy the rights of citizens in good standing.
However, expungement of past records does nothing to help those who currently languish in correctional facilities and jails. A full-throated dedication to social justice demands that the expungement bill be passed in conjunction with separate legislation that decriminalizes recreational marijuana. Decriminalization is the path for lessening the likelihood of race or economic status playing a part in future marijuana arrests. It is also the key to unlocking those unjustly imprisoned today.
I will be reaching out to set up meetings with the New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus, the NJ Black Elected Officials Statewide Policy Alliance, and our civil rights and faith-based leadership partners to confer on next steps.
In the meantime, I applaud Senate President Sweeney and others for their commitment to those New Jerseyans who will benefit from the advancement of the medical marijuana and expungement bills.