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Fighting for Cannabis Implementation in New Jersey

The Senate Appropriations Committee pulled the cannabis implementation bill S. 21 from the docket and gave advocates time to fight for amendments.

The office of State Senator Troy Singleton (D-Burlington), who voiced concerns about the cannabis implementation bill in committee and said he was working on reform, referred to the bill’s sponsors for what needs to be addressed.

The bill S. 21 is sponsored by State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Nick Scutari (D-Union). NJ Senate Democratic Majority Office spokesman Richard McGrath said it was pulled from the Senate Appropriations Committee because they are still working out the details. When pressed, he did not go into specifics.

A Just Cannabis Implementation

With the bill on hold, a large coalition of progressive groups under the Berniecrat group Our Revolution’s (OR) leadership called “The Coalition for Cannabis Justice” has ramped up their effort to pass a just cannabis implementation bill in New Jersey. Mico Lucide is facilitating the effort with Matt Skeete.

Lucide is the Chair of Atlantic County OR. He first brought up the idea to focus on cannabis implementation among the group.

While not a user himself, he said, “I’m just someone who cares a fuck ton about justice.”

His passion stems from growing up poor and understanding of socio-economic issues.

Within OR, a cannabis implementation justice working group was formed, which decided to develop a petition focusing on specific demands of social justice.

“Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean we’ve fixed the problem,” Lucide said.

They have collected 1,167 out of the 2,500 they seek to collect.

“We took it as a given that it would be legalized. So, we decided to make specific seven demands about social justice,” Lucide said.

Their petition reads: “Our Revolution New Jersey is calling for a socially and racially just approach to cannabis legalization. As November’s ballot measure nears, it is important to recognize that the legalization measure does not address any aspect of restorative justice. There are no expungements, no releases, and no racial justice provisions. It is unacceptable and cruel to leave people in jail and with records as the people of New Jersey celebrate the legalization of cannabis.”

Their petition says, “We are calling on the New Jersey Legislature, as well as the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, to do everything in their power to accomplish the following demands, which would allow for a more just legalization process.”

Some of their demands are:

“To restore justice to those harmed under the racist approach to enforcement of cannabis prohibition, we demand a transitionary opportunity program for all of those newly released (under demand number one) to enter the new cannabis market, with a guaranteed grow and sales licenses upon completion of the program, as well as first access to grants or loans associated with recreational cannabis businesses.

To ease the burden for those in the medical field and their patients requiring medical cannabis, we demand the removal of the extra certification for prescribing medical cannabis under New Jersey’s medical cannabis law, allowing all primary care physicians in New Jersey to prescribe medicinal cannabis.

To ensure that access to the cannabis market is free and open to entrepreneurs and minority populations, we demand that licensing and application fees be reasonable and the process for obtaining them be accessible.”

The co-sponsoring organizations are Our Revolution New Jersey, New Jersey Working Families, South Jersey Progressive Democrats, Cape May County Indivisible, South Jersey Solidarity Collective, Monmouth County CARE, Monmouth County Democratic Progressive Caucus, Central Jersey Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), Progressive Democrats of America NJ, Bus for Progress, SOMA Action, South Jersey Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), Burlington County Young Democrats, and the RCBC College Democrats.

NJ Working Families is a prominent organization that has been consistently leading efforts on progressive issues. They have very close ties to Governor Phil Murphy, whom they endorsed in the 2017 primary.

He called the cannabis implementation bill S. 21 that emerged “disappointing.” Thus, they sent the petition to the New Jersey Senate, particularly Scutari and Sweeney, along with Governor Murphy.

“I take it as a good sign with a grain of salt,” Lucide said about the bill’s postponement.

He said he doesn’t think they’re making the right moves for the right reasons.

OR’s next steps are paying close attention to the legislation and the conversation around cannabis implementation and social justice and seeking to engage legislators.

“OR is very prepared and equipped to have direct action when necessary,” he said.

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