The efforts to legalize adult-use cannabis in New Jersey took a major step forward as the Assembly Oversight, Reform and Federal Relations hosted a public hearing on legislation that would allow voters to decide if they’d like to amend the State constitution to allow for personal, non-medical use of cannabis by those who are 21 years of age or older.
The measure (ACR-840) is sponsored by Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano, Jamel Holley, Britnee N. Timberlake and Angela McKnight.
“I became interested in legalization due to the inequalities in the enforcement of cannabis laws and their long term impacts on the lives of all people in this state, but considerably those of color,” said Quijano (D-Union). “I believe, with this constitutional amendment, we have listened to the will of the majority of New Jerseyans and taken a common-sense approach to regulation of cannabis. This is a new arena for New Jersey law and one that we hope will protect citizens, support communities and create a new economic driver for the state.”
The proposed constitutional amendment provides the opportunity for the people of New Jersey to allow the State to adopt a new approach to cannabis policies by taxing, regulating and legalizing cannabis sales and consumption for adults, 21 years of age.
“A key component to cannabis legalization was addressing social justice concerns. The fact that Black New Jerseyans are 3 or 4 times more likely to be arrested on cannabis charges has contributed to the disenfranchisement of black communities,” said Holley (D-Union). “Should voters approve this constitutional amendment at the ballot box in November of 2020, there would unprecedented opportunity for residents to clean the slate with expungement provisions and for communities to grow their economic base with businesses. This is a long time coming.”
New Jersey law enforcement officers made over 24,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, more than in the previous 20 years – approximately one every 22 minutes. African Americans are nearly three times more likely to be arrested for cannabis passion than white New Jerseyans, despite similar usage rates with white counterparts. Cannabis possession arrests constituted three out of five drug arrests also in 2012.
The state spends approximately $127 million per year on cannabis possession enforcement costs.
“As a prime sponsor, it was important to ensure the legislation included real enterprising opportunity. This, along with more defined employment opportunities and a commission which requires diversity, was pivotal to include,” said Timberlake (D-Essex). “In addition to legalization being a clear revenue generator for the State, the social justice and diversity portion was imperative.”
“Undoubtedly, this is the largest regulatory undertaking the state has considered since the casino commission. I am proud of what we have accomplished with this legislation,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “Remaining at status quo meant continued disparity in arrests for African Americans and teens for amounts now to be considered personal use. We are moving the state in a direction more compassionate for cannabis and in line with what is happening across the country in regards to legalization.”
Currently Colorado, California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts and Michigan have legalized the adult-use of cannabis that permits the cultivation and sale of cannabis establishing regulated revenue producing markets. Vermont and Washington D.C. allow for growing but prohibit the sale of cannabis.