Marijuana Legalization Must be Fair and Equitable in New Jersey

As early as next week, the New Jersey Legislature may consider legislation to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana for adult use. Marijuana prohibition has disproportionately impacted people of color and marijuana laws have been used to support biased policies like stop and frisk, racial profiling and the deportation of people of color.

We need your help to make sure marijuana legalization includes policies that provide a level playing field so we don’t continue the harms of marijuana prohibition. Tell your New Jersey legislators to ensure that marijuana legalization is fair and equitable and repairs past harms to communities most affected.

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Your Message
Demand Fair and Equitable Marijuana Legalization in New Jersey
Dear Senator/Assemblyman/Assemblywoman,

As a voter in New Jersey and supporter of marijuana legalization, I am writing to say that any legislation to legalize marijuana must establish a fair and equitable marijuana market and repair the harms that have disparately impacted communities of color in New Jersey.

We know that marijuana laws in New Jersey have a disproportionate impact on communities of color. African Americans are three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites even though both use marijuana at the same rates. Anecdotal evidence suggests similar disparities for Latinos. New Jersey arrests more than 32,000 people a year for marijuana possession at a cost of more than $140 million to New Jersey taxpayers. This absurd and wasteful policy criminalizes otherwise law-abiding people and wastes resources that would be better spent on projects that support our families and communities.

A conviction for marijuana possession can have severe long-term consequences. The resulting criminal record subjects a person to a system of legal discrimination that can last a lifetime and can make it difficult or impossible to secure employment, housing, student loans or even 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.

Now, as New Jersey considers legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana, fairness and equity demand a system that provides a level playing field and addresses past harms, including:

• Barring vertical integration in the industry to avoid monopolies and encourage diverse participation in the industry;

• Access to the industry for individuals from different socioeconomic backgrounds;

• Requirement that the state shall actively seek to achieve a diverse industry;

• Provisions intended to repair communities most harmed by marijuana prohibition, including community reinvestment of marijuana tax revenue and automatic and retroactive expungement; and

• Civil penalties for marijuana activities that occur outside the new legal system to avoid the continuation of a criminal system that disproportionately harms communities of color.

These components are critical to making marijuana legalization fair and equitable and are supported by a broad coalition ( of faith leaders, civil rights groups and social justice organizations, including the NAACP New Jersey State Conference, Latino Action Network and Salvation and Social Justice, just to name a few.

The criminalization of marijuana has been a tragic failure and I applaud the Legislature for considering legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana as other states have done so successfully. But, legalizing marijuana without addressing racial and social justice, would also be a failure. I urge you to demand marijuana legalization legislation that creates a fair and equitable marijuana market and repairs the harms that have disproportionately impacted communities of color. Thank you for your consideration.


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