According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), marijuana related arrests in NJ skyrocketed from 2000 to 2013. In 2000 the number of marijuana related arrests were 19,607; that number jumped to 24,067 in 2013.1
Over the last ten years, NJ has spent over a billion dollars to crack down on marijuana users in particular. These aren’t top level drug dealers either; 90% of those arrested are just recreational users or undiagnosed cannabis patients.1
It may come as no surprise that Black New Jersey natives were 3 TIMES LIKELIER to be arrested than their white counterparts for crimes such as possession and/or intent to distribute. According to the report, someone in New Jersey is arrested for possession every 22 minutes.1
New Jersey ACLU representative, Dianna Houenou, went as far as calling the report proof of a, “civil rights crisis” in New Jersey. She went on to say,
“Well over half of all Americans support legalization, but more people are arrested for marijuana possession in our state than ever before. The racial disparity in these arrests has only grown. It’s time to end the needless criminalization of Black communities by ending marijuana prohibition.” 2
Editorial: I’m not sure if ending marijuana prohibition will end the criminalization of Black communities, but it certainly will help to have one less thing to be arrested for I suppose. Let’s be clear: black neighborhoods are “criminalized” because of institutional racism. Poverty, familial dysfunction, and a lack of opportunity in education and elsewhere within impoverished communities, contribute daily to the “criminalization” we witness in urban areas. My point is, legalizing pot won’t solve criminality in impoverished communities.
Outside of that, we’re with Dianna Houenou and agree that marijuana possession charges in NJ are out of hand and legalization will help in the fight against the systematic racism; we just don’t think that’s nearly enough to “end it” or even begin to end it.
Believe it or not, many marijuana smokers believe that legalizing cannabis could have some negative consequences for impoverished people and their communities. Those who smoke marijuana, but don’t want to see it legalized argue that:
-The quality of marijuana will decline, as the plant is exploited for profit.
-The big pharmaceutical industry may drive the cost of marijuana up.
-Marijuana seeds may be copyrighted.
-People will still be in jail for possession while the rich will make a fortune for the same.
-Government regulation of marijuana will leave only a few rich, as the cultivation and sale of marijuana is appropriated by corporations.
There are many arguments for and against the prohibition of marijuana, but it cannot be argued that laws against marijuana are outdated, archaic, and completely inappropriate for the time in which we live. Marijuana prohibition laws ultimately hurt regular citizens the most, and although legalization may not play out perfectly, being able to smoke freely without fear of imprisonment is something all marijuana smokers of all colors, creeds, and backgrounds have wanted for many years. Hopefully as Christie’s reign of terror ends in New Jersey, we will also see the end of marijuana possession charges for good.