Ron Rice

State Senator Ron Rice is accusing State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Judiciary Committee Chair Nick Scutari (D-Union) of causing decriminalization to stall.

The Decriminalization bill passed the Assembly in a week from introduction to full passage in the wake of the George Floyd /Black Lives Matter protests. Then nothing has been heard of it in the State Senate since then. To put it in context, most bills with a lot of support take at least a month at the minimum to go from introduction to full passage by the Assembly. Thus, while the Assembly acted with great concern, the State Senate has seemed wholly indifferent.

Ron Rice is co-sponsoring a comprehensive decriminalization bill introduced by Senator Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) and Sandra Cunningham (D-Hudson).

“This legislation is not an earth-shattering pivot that would turn our state on its ear or hurl us into a chaotic upheaval. This is a simple, common sense, compassionate law that protects many residents,” Rice said. “It levels the playing field so that Blacks, people of color and those unable to afford the same legal representation as affluent offenders do not find themselves arrested, incarcerated and rendered unable to obtain work, housing, or even student loans.”

“I am further compelled to remind my colleagues and all residents of our state that the Black Lives Matter movement is more than a response to state-sanctioned violence to Black bodies and anti-Black racism.  It is a call to establish the full social, economic and political justice needed for Black lives to matter in every way, on every level,” Ron Rice said.

Some think decriminalization was stalled so as not to detract from the legalization referendum. It’s based on a faulty assumption that the difference and the value of voting for legalization could not be explained to voters.

Ron Rice and Cannabis

While never in favor of legalization, Ron Rice has been in favor of decriminalization, which advocates view as a stop-gap measure to halt the high amount of cannabis-related arrests that occur every day in New Jersey. The ACLU released a report that said 94 people are arrested each day. However, that data showed that the arrest rate was rising every year. The last year they analyzed data for was 2018. Thus, it’s likely more than 94.

NJ RAMP, the leading prohibitionist organization in the state, seemed to contain several Newark clergymen to keep Rice on their side.

Thus, while Rice might help pass decriminalization and stop cannabis-arrests, do not count on him to help ensure the legal cannabis market is allowed to exist, must less just. A fully legalized cannabis market can most effectively create good-paying jobs, a tax revenue stream for state government, and create further prosperity.

Ancillary businesses like cannabis focused lawyers, accountants, writers, and graphic designers among others cannot flourish under decriminalization. Nor could paraphernalia shops.