Salvation and Social Justice has fought vigorously alongside several advocacy organizations to end cannabis prohibition. The failed drug war has devastated communities of color. Analysis released today from Insider NJ shows arrests for low-level possessions of cannabis in Passaic County alone from August 2017 to August 2018 exceeded two thousand. Imagine that multiplied by every urban center and decades of enforcement.
The firsthand collateral consequences of a criminal conviction, which subjects an individual to a system of legal discrimination that can last a lifetime and can make it difficult—or even impossible—to secure employment, housing, student loans, or a driver’s license. Even without a conviction, the consequences of an arrest can include untold stigma and humiliation, the financial burden of a criminal court proceeding and lost hours at work or school. These factors have real-life consequences on families and communities, often perpetuating poverty and serving as barriers to economic mobility and success for New Jerseyans. Cannabis laws have been used to support biased policies like stop and frisk, racial profiling, and the deportation of people of color. As people of faith, we are called to pursue a fairer and more compassionate world. Addiction is best handled through public health initiatives and education campaigns not the criminal justice system. We must understand clearly that cannabis prohibition started as a means to control and incarcerate African Americans and Mexicans. It has done exactly what it was designed for.
New Jersey has the opportunity to liberate oppressed and enslaved people right now. We must stand together and do the right thing. We are not naïve. We see clearly the major corporate interests which are seething at the mouth to make profits. Ending wars unfortunately often make strange bedfellows. America has never abolished anything or liberated anyone for purely righteous purposes. If that was the case, there would be no need for prophetic passion and advocacy. Without our collective campaigns, this would be merely an industry bill for young white males with no person of color getting free, expunged, or given access to the market. We support S2703 & A4497 and encourage everyone to contact their legislator to do the same.
We will continue to fight for reparative justice and focused investment in the communities that have been targeted by historically racist laws. Although this bill still lacks robust community reinvestment, it is a major first step in dismantling and abolishing the so-called drug war which has actually been a war on black and brown people. Thousands will reap the benefit of vacated or reduced sentences and expunged records. By all estimations, this is liberation and transformation.