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If my math’s correct, Shavonda Sumter and Cleopatra Tucker are the only members of the Assembly Black Caucus poised to vote against cannabis legalization.
A full Assembly vote is scheduled for Monday March 25.
Assemblywoman Sumter, who represents parts of Passaic and Bergen Counties, apparently still thinks cannabis is a gateway drug.
She’s right, considering all those people for whom cannabis is a gateway into the prison industrial complex.
There were 2117 arrests for low-level possessions of cannabis in Passaic County from Aug 2017- Aug 2018. (see stats below) A whopping 26% of Passaic’s overall tally came from Assemblywoman Sumter’s hometown of Paterson where 540 people got locked up for minor cannabis possession in a 12 month period.
So if you’re doing the math, every week in Paterson NJ 11 more people fall victim to our dated, racist pot laws.
I said it yesterday and it bears repeating: it’s hard to conceive that you can represent Paterson, where 11 people get locked up for weed every week, and not be intimately connected to the pain and damage the War on Drug has caused.
At long last, New Jersey finally has an opportunity to upend cannabis prohibition and stop filling our prisons with non-violent pot users. There may be a full vote in both houses on Monday. And while one vote won’t undo decades of Drug War excesses, legalizing cannabis is a huge down payment on restorative justice.
This is heady stuff. The vote to legalize cannabis will be a historic, career-defining vote with legacy implications for every member of the New Jersey legislature.
Shavonda Sumter’s running-mate Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly recognizes the crossroads we’re all at.
“An opportunity to expunge a criminal record of a cannabis-related charge could mean the difference between working and not working for an individual,” Wimberly said. “It will be a process, and it will take a little effort but expungement will be possible for many residents.”
Below are the numbers for arrests for low-level possessions of cannabis in Passaic County from Aug 2017- Aug 2018.
Passaic County towns comprise most of Sumter and Wimberly’s 35th legislative district.
BLOOMINGDALE BORO 114
CLIFTON CITY 285
HALEDON BORO 114
HAWTHORNE BORO 98
LITTLE FALLS TWP 171
NORTH HALEDON BORO 13
PASSAIC CITY 476
PATERSON CITY 540
POMPTON LAKES BORO 17
PROSPECT PARK BORO 25
RINGWOOD BORO 32
TOTOWA BORO 26
WANAQUE BORO 47
WAYNE TWP 239
WEST MILFORD TWP 14
WOODLAND PARK BORO 23
TOTAL = 2217
Jay Lassiter is an award-winning writer and podcaster who pioneered NJ’s political landscape as the first credentialed state house blogger in the country.