Public Health Emergency Credits and Marijuana Referendum Marked Historic Civil Rights Milestones, and 2021 Calls for More Work on Cannabis, Immigrants’ Rights, and Reproductive Freedom
Following Governor Murphy’s State of the State address, the ACLU-NJ reflected on progress made in 2020 on civil rights and set out the key priorities to confront injustices in New Jersey for 2021, an unprecedented period defined by the COVID-19 pandemic, a historic movement for police reform, and a violent attempted coup at the Capitol.
The ACLU-NJ plans to work with the Murphy administration and the Legislature to ensure that we continue making monumental progress in these historic times.
ACLU-NJ Executive Director Amol Sinha issues the following statement:
“As Governor Murphy looks back on the progress we have made in 2020, even despite the pandemic, and as we look to the work ahead in 2021, we look forward to collaborating with the governor, the administration, and members of the Legislature to achieve our common goals of expanding civil rights and liberties and building a better, freer New Jersey for everyone.
“With the overwhelming passage of the referendum to legalize cannabis, the groundbreaking Public Health Emergency Credit law, and revisions to the state’s use-of-force policy to actively encourage de-escalation – to name just a few strides forward - New Jersey has emerged as a national leader across important issues. We must go even further in 2021, and we must work with renewed vigor to rid ourselves of the inequities that the pandemic has compounded, especially within communities of color.”
“The passage and signing of the Public Health Emergency Credit bill into law not only saved lives, but prompted the largest single decarceration in New Jersey history, putting New Jersey at the forefront of a nationwide movement to reduce incarceration. We’re proud to have significantly reduced the prison population in our state, and look forward to more reforms to end the racist plight of mass incarceration.”
Marijuana Legalization and Decriminalization
“Above all, we must get cannabis legalization and decriminalization over the finish line, to definitively end most cannabis arrests and to put in place a cannabis marketplace that takes important steps to build racial and social justice. And we must continue to push just as fiercely for social and racial justice in implementation as we have in legislation. While it has been a long process, we are close to getting it done – and we’re heartened that there is broad agreement on ending the criminalization of cannabis across stakeholders, leaving us optimistic for groundbreaking legislation.”
Overhaul of Policing
“Last year, the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police brought nationwide attention back to what we have long known: people of color unjustly bear the brunt of police violence, and we need to end a culture of policing that too often victimizes Black people. While the Attorney General has taken positive steps by adopting a leading use-of-force policy and increasing police transparency, we still need to overhaul policing through mandatory and broad records transparency, allowing for the creation of strong civilian complaint review boards, and ending qualified immunity.”
“We must also pass a bill to end mandatory minimums that can free so many people who are serving sentences that should have ended already – disproportionately people of color. Through the Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Commission, we achieved unanimous, bipartisan support of legislation to end mandatory minimums for many crimes – we should not delay its passage any longer.”
“When it comes to reproductive freedom, access is key, and we must make the Reproductive Freedom Act law. Families and individuals thrive when they can make their own decisions, and New Jersey must take action to make sure that no one has to struggle to get care they need with the dignity and respect that they deserve.”
“At the end of 2019, a new law expanded driver’s licenses to all eligible people regardless of immigration status, and we anticipate imminent regulations that ensure that the state keeps its promises in fulfilling the full potential of the law.
“With the end of the Trump administration, we cannot let our guard down against attacks on the rights of immigrants, and it’s imperative that we enshrine the protections of the Attorney General’s Immigrant Trust Directive into law and end local law enforcement from acting as agents for ICE.”
“As President Trump’s response to the election results has shown, those in power can too easily spread misinformation, undermine our democracy, and catalyze violence along the way. We must combat that by enhancing civic participation, and continuing to do whatever we can to make it easier to vote, not harder. This includes ending disenfranchisement of those in prison, implementing robust early voting, and Election Day registration. No one should ever lose their voice in our democracy.”