Calling it the disparity in marijuana arrests by race “a matter of racial justice that demands immediate attention,” Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca called for the legalization of marijuana in New Jersey today in an impassioned editorial on NJSpotlight.
DeLuca wrote, “New Jersey’s black and white residents have similar marijuana usage rates. However, according to a study by the ACLU of New Jersey, African-Americans were three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in New Jersey than whites in 2013, a 34 percent rise in that disparity since 2000. Also troubling — almost nine out of 10 arrests are for possession, not for distribution. Recreational users, not dealers, are the ones paying the price.”
DeLuca detailed how an arrest can spiral into loss of education, income and more, DeLuca wrote that “an arrest for marijuana possession can pose significant barriers to employment. An arrest for possession could get you up to six months in jail, loss of your driver’s license, and fees and fines of over $1,200. If you were a student, you could lose your student loan; if you were an immigrant, you could face deportation; and if you lived in public housing, you could face eviction.”
DeLuca also noted that “a marijuana possession arrest can result in the loss of your state license and a devastating disruption in your ability to hold a job.” DeLuca noted that more than 200 professions in New Jersey required state licenses — including contractors, beauticians, athletic trainers, and home health aides.
The mayor said that he supported Gov. Phil Murphy’s pledge to make the legalization of marijuana a priority in 2018. “It is a new year,” wrote DeLuca, “let’s set a new course by making this commonsense change today.”
Read the full editorial here.