For decades one of the greatest arguments against the War on Drugs, and cannabis in particular, was the racial disparities in arrests and time served, and the resulting problem of overcrowded prisons packed with victims of a social stigma, many of whom were not even close to criminals.
As marijuana is destigmatized and public opinion is overwhelmingly in favor of medical marijuana, with a majority of people in favor of broad legalization, social reform has become less of a talking point and more of a sticking point for not only activists, but lawmakers.
Tax revenue is a very publicized result of cannabis legalization, but the heart of the matter lies in social justice and reaching out to communities that have been adversely affected by laws set in place during a different era. An era when race was an arguing point on the subject, and not in an enlightened manner in the least.
These new developments happening across the states mean fewer incarcerations for simple possession. Just this week, Jersey City, NJ decriminalized cannabis to, “increase racial justice while protecting public safety,” according to NJ.com.
New Jersey is in the process of becoming one of the next states to legalize marijuana for adult use and the move by Jersey City is commendable and a big victory for cannabis activists and enthusiasts across both the state and country.
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Decrim doesn’t go far enough, though, according to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. In a speech, he stated, “I greatly respect those in this chamber who have proposed decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, and I thank them for recognizing the importance of doing what’s right and just for those who carry criminal records for past possession arrests, but decriminalization alone will not put the corner dealer out of business, it will not help us protect our kids and it will not end the racial disparities we see.”
He went on to say that he believed the truest and best route to social justice and a fair law was to tax, regulate and to have a “careful” approach to legalization. His statement reflects the sentiments of weed warriors around the world who want to see nonviolent offenders free, retroactively, now and in the future, and to finally put a stop to the unjust and imbalanced arrests for the simple possession of a non-toxic plant.