New Jersey Finally Legalized Cannabis. What’s Next for Equity in the State's Industry?

Cannabtimes

<![CDATA[Last week, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy ended a weeks-long legislative saga that saw cannabis legalization—supported by more than two in three voters in November—finally go into effect. On Feb. 22, Murphy signed a bill to legalize and another bill clarifying penalties for underage possession, a sticking point that had stalled the development of the legal industry. Stopping low-level cannabis arrests and moving forward on an initiative the state’s voters approved nearly four months ago is just the start. Those fighting for a fair industry in New Jersey say there’s still a long way to go to ensure the new state market helps correct the previous decades of biased law enforcement.Racial disparity in New Jersey prohibitionBetween 2010 and 2018, Black people were 3.5 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis across the state. In certain counties, that discrepancy shoots up to over 13. And according to the ACLU, the disparity has gotten worse over time—in 2000, Black people were arrested 2.2 times as often.“New Jersey averaging 32,000 arrests a year for low-level, nonviolent, minor possession of cannabis—and 80% of those arrested were people who look like me—is not a fluke or happenstance,” said Leo Bridgewater, Director of Veterans Outreach for Minorities 4 Medical Marijuana (M4MM) and an advocate in the state’s effort for cannabis reform. He and others involved in New Jersey’s legalization process, who spoke to Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary via email, weighed in on how Garden State lawmakers should proceed from here on out to create an industry that can begin to compensate for many years of racially biased law enforcement.What will it take for a fair industry?Recent estimates from The New York Times project that legal cannabis will bring the state of New Jersey more than $125 million in annual revenue. In many other legalized…

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