Black cannabis users in New Jersey can’t catch a break when it comes to being targeted by law enforcement.
NJ.com reports, that according to the American Civil Liberties Union, Blacks and whites may have similar engagement with adult use or recreational marijuana. However, Black folks continue to be arrested for possession far more frequently than whites in New Jersey. The ACLU announced Friday that they are pushing lawmakers to legalize cannabis before the state legislative session ends in January.
“Legalization is about racial justice,” said Amol Sinha, executive director of the ACLU in New Jersey.
Despite growing public support for the legalized use of recreational marijuana, arrests in New Jersey have increased in recent years, according to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In 2017, the state reportedly had more arrests of Blacks users of the plant, and at higher rates, than almost every other state.
The ACLU’s analysis targeted three counties: Salem, Ocean and Hunterdon, where Blacks were eleven times more likely to be arrested for possessing marijuana. In Salem County, Blacks were six times more likely to be arrested. Even worst is in Ocean, were they are seven times more likely to be targeted, harassed and hauled off to jail.
Back in March, top state lawmakers canceled a planned vote on a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older.
“We’ll be back at this,” state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, told reporters shortly after the vote was called off. “So anybody who thinks this is dead, they’re wrong.”
“This is an issue that’s not going away,” he added. “The legalization of adult-use marijuana will get passed in the state of New Jersey, one way or another.”
Lawmakers said they haven’t received enough support in the state Senate to pass the bill.
Sweeney admitted he “may have under-estimated the challenge of getting this passed.”