New Jersey voters approved legalizing recreational marijuana last week, joining the District of Columbia and 11 states legalizing recreational cannabis. Though, people could legally buy and use cannabis under the constitutional amendment voters approved by a wide margin, it’s unclear how quickly the new market will be set up.
In the cannabis legalization process of NJ, there are some extraordinary people who help the state pave the way and finally make it. This article will focus on the most important cannabis influencers and their contributions in terms of decriminalizing and legalizing cannabis/marijuana in NJ.
Cory Booker and the Marijuana Justice Act
when Cory Booker, the New Jersey senator and 2020 presidential candidate of Dem, looks at the question of legalizing cannabis, he sees the stakes very differently. For Booker, the real problem is the unjust enforcement of marijuana laws — against black and brown Americans, whose usage rates are no different than their white counterparts but whose incarceration are at astronomically higher rates.
As Congress begins to seriously grapple with the federal legalization of cannabis, Booker has introduced, with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), the Marijuana Justice Act. The bill would not simply remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act. It would also create a mechanism to expunge the criminal records of many pot offenders and create a fund of at least $500 million a year to repair the damage done to communities that have been unjustly targeted. Finally, it would strip federal money from states that continue to prohibit pot if they do not enforce their laws equitably along racial and class lines.
The Marijuana Justice Act is the first bill that deschedules marijuana that also acknowledges the harm that prohibition has done to communities of color and low income communities — connecting marijuana reform to criminal justice reform and racial justice.
“The War on Drugs has not been a war on drugs, it’s been a war on people and disproportionately people of color and low-income individuals,” Mr. Booker once said. “The Marijuana Justice Act seeks to reverse decades of this unfair, unjust and failed policy by removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances and making it legal at the federal level.”
Amol Sinha and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in New Jersey
Before he became the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in New Jersey, Amol Sinha long had an interest in racial justice.
“It’s been something that’s been on my mind in an active way ever since law school,” Sinha, 35, said. “I learned about racial disparities in arrests and the way in which these seemingly low-level drug offenses can have consequential impact on the rest of people’s lives. It’s what pulled me into drug policy reform work.”
At the organization’s helm, he focuses on issues like bias in policing, voting access and protecting the rights of the imprisoned, particularly during the coronavirus crisis that has ravaged the state’s prisons and put those behind bars at increased risk. For Sinha, legalizing marijuana and putting an end to arrests for possession checks off one box on a longer list of criminal justice reforms.
“Were it not for Amol Sinha, marijuana reform in New Jersey, and wider civil rights reforms would still be out of reach,” said ACLU national’s executive director Anthony D. Romero. “He is continuing to make racial justice powerfully consequential in New Jersey politics, and its impact is felt nationwide. From driving de-carceration to standing up for immigrants’ rights, his leadership inside the ACLU, and as a champion for racial justice and for New Jersey, comes at exactly the time when the country needs him.”
Scott Rudder and the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association
Scott Rudder has been a lot of things in his life — an Army veteran, a legislator, mayor of Medford, an executive at Lockheed Martin, a lobbyist — but for Rob Cressen he’s been something more.
Rudder in his 51 founded and serves as the president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association, a non-profit organization promoting jobs and growth in a sustainable and responsible cannabis industry in the Garden State.
“Wouldn’t it be better to generate $300 million in new revenue for the state of New Jersey instead of costing taxpayers $147 million annually to arrest and prosecute simple possession charges?” Rudder said. “Is it better to create thousands and thousands of jobs instead of arresting 36,000 people annually for simple possession? I think people understand that message, particularly now as we’re dealing with COVID and the economic destruction that shutting down businesses has done to our economy, not just in New Jersey, but across the country and around the world.”