Social Justice is the Point – New Jersey Citizen Action Urges Legislature to Center Legalization on Racial and Social Justice

Social Justice is the Point – New Jersey Citizen Action Urges Legislature to Center Legalization on Racial and Social Justice

The effort to legalize marijuana in New Jersey took a step forward today when S21/A21 passed the Senate Judiciary and Assembly Oversight, Reform and Federal Relations Committees. We are hopeful to see legalization advance, but the bill needs a giant fix, and not after the fact. We urge Senator Scutari, Assemblywoman Quijano and the rest of the bill’s sponsors to prioritize social and racial justice. The bill, as written and advanced today, does not. Instead, it funnels the vast majority of cannabis tax revenue to police departments for “drug impairment training”, which does not address and may exacerbate the abuses suffered by communities of color under marijuana prohibition.

Make no mistake, social and racial justice is the point of marijuana legalization. While some discuss legalization as a revenue raiser for the state budget, or a new market opportunity for monied interests, people of color continue to have their lives destroyed by the Drug War. Putting those factors ahead of social justice is a subversion of the true need for and reason why legalization is necessary and urgent.

Our communities of color in New Jersey, as around the nation, have suffered multiple generations of devastation because of the War on Drugs. It is a major driver of economic depression of Black and Brown people and of a gigantic racial wealth gap. Legalization is largely driven by the repair and healing of the communities entrapped by the Drug War, and treated unfairly in the legal system while white marijuana users enjoyed leniency or complete immunity. It’s an embarrassing and incredibly unjust reality of our legal system that must be amended.

We call for a marijuana legalization bill that

  • Uses tax revenue for housing, education, job training, and health care for communities harmed by the Drug War, not for law enforcement
  • Fully funds expungement of records of individuals with marijuana arrests
  • Creates an equitable cannabis industry with low barriers to entry for individuals with marijuana convictions
  • Increases the tax rate to create real revenue for community investments – a 6.625% tax is wholly inadequate

With this bill we have an incredible opportunity to start to build back the numerous communities that have suffered greatly and unfairly during the War on Drugs. To not do so is yet another injustice.

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