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Pro-Cannabis New Jersey Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver Passes

New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver passed away unexpectedly at the age of 71 and held pro-cannabis positions.

An unspecified illness was the cause of death. She was admitted to a hospital in Livingston in Essex County on Monday and passed away yesterday afternoon. 

Pro-Cannabis Views

Sheila Oliver was an ally in the movement to pass adult-use cannabis legalization in New Jersey.

Oliver was pro-cannabis legalization with a heavy focus on social justice. She supported initiatives to eliminate mandatory minimum sentencing related to cannabis possession. It helped minorities disproportionately targeted by the police for arrest.

Oliver also supported efforts to address access to capital or money spearheaded by the NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJ-CRC) and the Economic Development Authority (EDA).

Oliver was Assembly Speaker from 2010 to 2014. She was then replaced by Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson), who was replaced with Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex) in 2017.

New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Issues

New Jersey has a unique law. When the Governor leaves the state, the next ranking official becomes the Acting Governor.

Murphy is on vacation in Italy. So Oliver was supposed to be the Acting Governor. Since she was admitted to the hospital, NJ Senate President and cannabis legalization sponsor Nick Scutari (D-Union) became Acting Governor.

“I want to extend my best wishes to Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver for a rapid and healthy recovery. We look forward to her return,” he said on Monday.

New Jersey had no Lieutenant Governors until Kim Guadagno under Chris Christie (R).  This led a series of Senate Presidents to become Governors in the early 2000s until the law was changed.

New Jersey Leaders Mourn Sheila Oliver

“Tammy and I, and our children, are incredibly saddened and distraught to learn of the passing of our dear friend, colleague, and partner in government, Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver,” Governor Phil Murphy (D) said. “When I selected her to be my running mate in 2017, Lieutenant Governor Oliver was already a trailblazer in every sense of the word.  She had already made history as the first Black woman to serve as Speaker of the General Assembly and just the second Black woman in the nation’s history to lead a house of a state legislature.”

“As someone who was born and raised in Newark and who has called East Orange home for more than 40 years, Sheila did not view these issues in the abstract because she lived with them every day of her life,” he added.

Murphy noted she was an inspiration to young women of color.

Cannabis Leaders Honor Lt. Governor

“Lieutenant Governor Oliver was a beacon of light, leading with a heart full of compassion and a drive to make New Jersey a better place for all its residents. Her tireless efforts to champion affordable housing, education reform, social justice, and other pivotal causes reflect her dedication to the greater good and her profound commitment to public service,” NJ-CRC Vice Chair Sam Delgado declared.

“May we all find solace in the lasting impact and positive change she has brought to New Jersey,” he added.

“When I began in the Legislature, my first Committee assignment was the Assembly Human Services Committee, of which then-Assemblywoman Oliver was Chair. She was passionate, compassionate, and strong in her convictions. More often than not, we found ourselves in agreement, despite our political differences, and we bonded over our ability to debate honestly and professionally,” New Jersey CannaBusiness Association President Scott Rudder said.

“When she became Speaker, she again projected strength and a desire to bring different ideas together,” he added. “This is a tremendous loss.”

(Full disclosure Scott Rudder is a Heady NJ Patreon supporter).

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of our Lt. Governor, Sheila Oliver. I have known Sheila since my first day in the legislature. She was my first Speaker. I had a front-row seat to see her break the glass ceiling and become New Jersey’s first Black woman Speaker and New Jersey’s first Black Lieutenant Governor,” New Jersey Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin declared. “Sheila was an extraordinary person. She was deeply committed to the people she served and the state she loved.  We will miss her wisdom, leadership, and passion.” 

(Photo above taken from NJ.gov)

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