Rice’s Statement on Governor Murphy’s Support of Recreational Marijuana Decrim

From left on the week before the elecction: Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker, Senator Ronald L. Rice, and Assemblyman Ralph Caputo.

Senator Ronald L. Rice issued the following statement on Governor Phil Murphy’s support of decriminalizing recreational marijuana:

“For all our feisty discussions and fiery debates in the New Jersey Legislature and government leadership, one fact can’t be denied:  We have moved mountains since Phil Murphy came into office.

“While there is still much work ahead of us to reform social, economic and criminal justice policies that continue to treat people of color and women unjustly, now – with the governor’s announcement of his intention to decriminalize recreational marijuana – the mountain shifts forward another step. New Jersey stands poised to take one of the greatest steps towards justice in our state’s history, destroying our disgraceful practice of arresting 600 people each week for low-level marijuana offenses. It’s a cause for celebration.  However, the real celebration will be when a decriminalization bill is signed into law and we congratulate everyone who helped blaze this trail.

“Decriminalization is not, as I’ve seen in media reports a ‘second choice,’ a ‘stop-gap measure,’ or a ‘short-term solution.’  It certainly is not a reason to be ‘disappointed!’  It is a long sought-after and hard-fought victory for any person or family caught up on the wrong side of a small-scale marijuana arrest, particularly people of color and those without the means to hire proper legal representation.

“Because black and brown people are arrested and incarcerated for small amount marijuana use and possession at a rate of three times more than whites, decriminalization will go a long way to correct social injustice and an unfair, biased system.  It downgrades offenses to misdemeanors, allows those in jail to go home to their families, and frees people from the yoke of a criminal record that prevents better housing and jobs, student financial aid or the driver’s license necessary for a fresh start on life.

“If full-throated support of decriminalization doesn’t indicate where a person’s heart is, nothing does.  It shows compassion and a commitment to equality and justice.  And, in contradiction to a new buzz phrase linked with legalization, nothing puts you more squarely ‘on the right side of history’ than fighting for social justice and supporting decriminalization to level the playing field for all residents in this great state of ours.”

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