‘Yes’ Vote Legalizes Cannabis – Next Step Will Be Centering Racial Justice in Implementation

November 3, 2020

New Jerseyans passed a constitutional amendment legalizing cannabis through a ballot question on Nov. 3, signaling the beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition in the Garden State. Now, lawmakers must pass legislation to implement the constitutional amendment and create a regulated industry. The ACLU-NJ and other advocates have called for racial and social justice every step of the way, including legislation to implement the yes vote. In New Jersey, police make over 32,000 arrests for cannabis possession annually, and Black people are 3.5 times more likely to be arrested for a marijuana-related offense than white people, despite similar usage.

The following statement can be attributed to ACLU-NJ Executive Director Amol Sinha:

“Today, New Jerseyans spoke with a unified voice with a clear message: the time of cannabis prohibition must end. New Jerseyans overwhelmingly rejected the injustices and costs – human and financial – of the war on marijuana, and instead voted to create a new vision of justice. 

“Unjust racial disparities have for decades defined enforcement of marijuana laws, and we must make sure that we now do everything in our power to ensure that racial justice defines legalization.

“The ‘yes’ vote is only the first step toward justice. The legislature has its marching orders, delivered by the people. For legalization to fulfill its true potential, the legislation implementing it must center racial and social justice every step of the way. In fleshing out the cannabis constitutional amendment, lawmakers must create an inclusive, racially just, equitable cannabis industry, enable robust expungement of records, and invest revenue in the communities hit hardest by unjust drug law enforcement, especially Black and brown communities. 

“Importantly, legislators must also pass legislation to decriminalize cannabis immediately to stop unjust cannabis-related arrests from harming more people in the interim period before legalization is fully implemented. After decades of waiting and hundreds of thousands of arrests, New Jerseyans can no longer wait.

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