cannabis protest Newark the war on drugs

Cannabis activist and scientist Josh Alb is organizing a protest in Newark on Friday calling for an end to the War on Drugs.

The protest will be held from 4:20 to 7:10 pm on 7/17 on the steps of Newark City Hall.

Along with Alb, Ken Wolski, Executive Director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana of New Jersey (CMMNJ), Minorities 4 Medical Marijuana (M4MM) Veteran Outreach Director Leo Bridgewater will be there as well as representatives from NORML, Student Marijuana Alliance for Research and Transparency (SMART), and Clean Water for Newark.

Cannabis Protest in Newark

The protest is going to begin at Newark City Hall. They will then march to Peter Francisco Park by Penn Station.

Alb has been especially touched by the recent George Floyd/Black Lives Matter protests. He spoke at one of the rallies held in Edison and attended many others.

The police brutality and injustice apparent in the wake of the death of George Floyd and the protests stem from the War on Drugs Alb argued.

“It’s so embedded into the system that people don’t even think about it,” Alb said.

He explained this all because Richard Nixon sought to suppress civil rights and anti-war activists, especially those of color. The best way to do it was to go after them for possession of drugs. (More on that in Cannabis 101.) The escalation of the War on Drugs led to more violent tactics used by the police and an increase in their numbers and budget.

“It should not take a scientist from a lab to deal with this,” Alb said. “It bothers me that people on this coast are not doing stuff about BLM.”

Cannabis Legalization and Social Justice

Many people criticize the Multi-State Operators (MSOs) for their seeming indifference to social issues. They argue the industry benefits from the actions of the long-time activists and people who went to jail due to cannabis. In addition, the MSOs are known to be run almost entirely by white male executives.

It was initially scheduled for Friday 7/10, known as “OIL Day” in the industry and among enthusiasts, especially in the legalized markets. “710” is “OIL” upside down and backward. Oil Day is a recent holiday in the vein of 4/20. Alb said they initially picked 7/10 to bring attention to the cause.

Last November, Alb held a forum in Edison at Middlesex County College on cannabis science and the New Jersey medical marijuana program.

Serious Issues from the War on Drugs

Alb said the first step to ending the War on Drugs was full cannabis legalization. He then argued in favor of the legalization of psychedelics, such as psilocybin (mushrooms), DMT, LSD, and others.

In recent years, it has been found they have great therapeutic benefits when treating mental illness. Some cities are now pressing for their decriminalization. Alb also said the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and prisons should be defunded with the money going to healthcare and education.

Alb pointed to Portugal as a potential model on how and why to end the War on Drugs. When Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2011, consumption rates fell, addiction rates went down, and crime dropped. Homeless fell as well.

He pointed out that drug addiction is not treated as a health issue in the United States. Instead, it is seen as a crime.

In addition, minorities consume drugs at the same rates as whites but are arrested four times as much.

Racism in Drug Criminalization

One way that drug scheduling is racist many people say is that while crack, a drug used by many African Americans, is a Schedule I drug, cocaine is a Schedule II drug which comes with lesser criminal penalties. Alb pointed out that while cocaine is chemically the same as crack, Whites consume cocaine more.

“Pharma companies that prey on people, John & Johnson, Merck, Monsanto, benefit from their illegal status,” Alb said. Many large pharma companies make painkillers that are known to be addicting.

“Nothing has stopped, consumption rates never went down,” he added. “Has the War on Drugs stopped fentanyl? No! Alb said.

Newark is a hotbed of progressive ideas and protests. Mayor Ras Baraka spoke at a BLM protest in Newark. While heavily attended it was very peaceful, in contrast to protests elsewhere which were the site of retaliation from the police.

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Dan Ulloa
Dan Ulloa is the Editor and Publisher of Heady NJ, with a background in politics, journalism, and a passion for the cannabis community. He curates and publishes news, events, and insights on the industry. Dan has been a leading voice in the New Jersey cannabis scene, educating and informing the public about this rapidly evolving industry. He ranked #35 on the INSIDER NJ Cannabis Power List out of 100 in 2022.