Statement by Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka and Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop:
The most important and controversial policy issue of our time is the proposed legalization of adult use of cannabis. Today, as the Mayor of Newark and the Mayor of Jersey City, we stand together in solidarity representing the two largest cities in our state with a combined total population of over 500,000 in support of the legislation currently being proposed that will be voted upon on Monday, March 25, 2019. This legislation has the ability to give hope and new beginnings to communities that have historically dealt with the impacts of failed drug policy and the criminalization of communities of color, disenfranchised and poor communities which have disproportionately been impacted.
According to the ACLU, marijuana arrests now account for over half of all drug arrests in the United States. While we support this legislation, it is with the assurance from our leaders at the State level that they understand that more work must be done. No matter Monday’s outcome, our stance still remains that the state must be diligent in creating the mechanism to ensure that the expungement process is automatic for all non-violent cannabis arrests. From day one, we have been vocal on this issue and working with our State leadership on this and making recommendations on an ongoing basis.
Language in the legislation should include:
“Upon a search and review of those cases, any conviction for a nonviolent offense where the petitioner possessed, transported, purchased, obtained or gave away/distributed to other adults ANY AMOUNT of marijuana, smoked or ingested marijuana products, possessed, transported, purchased, obtained, used, manufactured, or gave away marijuana accessories to other adults, their record will be automatically (immediate with no further action needed by the petitioner/convicted) sealed. Persons currently serving a sentence should be prioritized for review.”
Furthermore, funds should be earmarked for the New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts to review and process all cases/ petitions for expungement. For those that are incarcerated for non-violent cannabis crimes, freedom is the only acceptable answer, and a path to redemption must be certain. As we look back, we must acknowledge our past, embrace our present and prepare for our future. The future of our residents is of critical importance, specifically those that have been impacted by drug policy designed for them to fail and to inhibit their quality of life as well as that of their families. We cannot pass up the opportunity to right these wrongs.
Now more than ever, we must work together. Again, we stand in unison in support of this legislation that could potentially become New Jersey’s law. We should aim to become a model state from which other states can clearly follow. We should address these issues in a manner that protects our communities and the people that live here.
- NEWARK -