NOVEMBER 30, 2020 

As of this writing, the New Jersey Public Question 1, Marijuana Legalization Amendment of 2020 passed in the November 3rd election 67.08 percent to 32.92 percent, by a margin of 1,394,057 votes, and will go into effect on January 1st, 2021, making New Jersey the first state in the Mid-Atlantic region to legalize the cultivation, processing, and sale of retail marijuana for consumption by persons over the age of 21. One thought that comes to mind is, before New Jersey legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults per the Public Question 1 ballot measure, why did it not first vacate the judgments and sentences of those arrested for crimes involving marijuana?

According to a November 2019 ACLU New Jersey report, “In 2017, New Jersey made 37,623 arrests for marijuana possession and distribution charges, going up nearly 35 percent from the 27,923 arrests made in 2013 on possession and distribution. According to the 2017 numbers, New Jersey averaged about 95 marijuana possession arrests per day, amounting to one arrest every 15 minutes. In contrast, ACLU-NJ’s 2017 report found that in 2013, New Jersey averaged 66 possession arrests statewide per day, or one arrest approximately every 21 minutes.” That is a great number of people who will find little solace in the passage of this measure, being passed over for the primary benefit because they have already been convicted, though it does mean that whenever they are released, they should not be brought up on marijuana-related charges again for similar activities. How many of them are non-white?

The American Civil Liberties Union of the State of New Jersey indicates that, while the ballot measure may curtail future arrests that could constitute a racial dragnet, no redress has been made to exculpate those convicted of what will no longer be a crime as of January 1st. It appears as if the government of New Jersey is attempting to move forward down the path of social progress, but is ignoring the context of history by not making those whose lives were broken by an unjustly enforced drug control policy somewhat whole again. Is there an initiative underway in New Jersey involving Code for America, for example, similar to what occurred in California in February of this year, where 66,000 marijuana-related convictions were dismissed in Los Angeles by the county District Attorney, when found eligible by the Clear My Record software application and California Proposition 64 which passed in 2016?