Today, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) issued the following statement on proposals making their way through the New Jersey State Assembly and Senate to legalize marijuana and establish social justice measures that will help correct for years of bias in marijuana use and possession enforcement.
"The criminalization of marijuana has done real damage to lives, families and whole communities among people of color in this country. When it comes to drug use and addiction, we have frequently and mistakenly used the criminal justice system with Black and Brown people, while seeking treatment, leniency and healthcare for White users.
"I'm glad to see our state's elected leaders stepping up to address the disparities that marijuana has created in our criminal justice system with the inclusion of strong social justice components in their proposal to legalize marijuana in New Jersey, and I am especially grateful for Governor Murphy's leadership. Marijuana use is the same between Black and White Americans, yet Black people are nearly four times more likely to be arrested -- and with that arrest, they suddenly face consequences like losing eligibility for affordable housing, access to jobs, and even financial aid for college. The inclusion of expungement mechanisms for low-level marijuana offenses will help hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans regain access to critical tools that will allow them to achieve economic security, and the path to vacated convictions provided in this measure will finally address the circumstances of thousands of people serving sentences for low-level marijuana offenses.
"This legislation is the nation's most comprehensive effort to correct the years of well-documented bias in marijuana enforcement. I'm proud to once again point to our state as a model for social justice measures across the country, and look forward to seeing this measure become law."