NJ marijuana laws should allow for weed warriors to get in on the green rush
Imagine, for a moment, if tomatoes were banned in New Jersey. Yep. For the last 70 years or so, tomatoes were an illegal crop.
Of course, this would upset a good number of people, and plenty of New Jerseyans would see fit to break the law and buy tomatoes on the black market. After all, they’re easy enough to grow, although after decades of the ban, finding the right seeds and the right soil and the right light and the right know-how became a bit of a challenge.
Sadly, many New Jerseyans ended up in prison due to their illegal tomato crops. They grew some primo “tom,” as the kids called it, but they got so good they drew the attention of the authorities and that was that.
Thankfully, lawmakers in the state saw the error of their ways eventually and legalized tomatoes. Every citizen in the state was now able to grow their own tomatoes and keep their own tomatoes for personal use. A few select licenses were granted for the retail growth of tomatoes. But not to the people who were in jail for tomato-related offenses. Even when they got out, they had a criminal record, and clearly, we can’t have criminals growing tomatoes, right? Well ... “Dude, because I have a weed arrest, I won’t be allowed to get into the New Jersey weed industry,” Ed Forchion, the NJ-Weedman, said to me last week, pointing out the rotten tomato part of the coming green rush here in the Garden State.
To recap: Just like I said last year and last week, legal weed is coming to New Jersey in 2018. It’s at the point where this is as sure as the sun rising in the east and the rooster crowing about it. It. Is. Going. To. Happen. The Marijuana Nine - the group of New Jersey legislators who went out to Colorado last week to inspect that state’s legal weed program - came back to New Jersey gushing. Senate President Steve Sweeney told NJ101.5 that he was “absolutely sold” on legal weed and that “as soon as the (new) governor gets situated, we’re all still here, we intend to move quickly on it.” It’s a done deal. The tax windfall will be (conservative) $300 million a year. Jobs will be created. Marijuana arrests and prosecutions will dwindle to near zero. It’s a win for everyone.
Except, probably, for people who have been in the weed industry this whole time.
“I will not support Sweeney’s efforts to legalize if it doesn’t have reparations for persons previously convicted of weed arrests,” Forchion said.
And he’s right. People who were previously convicted of marijuana arrests should have their records cleaned up and, importantly, if they want to get in on the business, they should have the same rights as anyone else.
In Oakland, California, this has been taken up a notch. From a recent East Bay Express story: “Oaklanders who’ve been jailed for pot in the last ten years will go to the front of the line for legal weed permits under a revolutionary new program enacted by the City Council.”
The idea here is obvious: Inner city black men were jailed for weed in way disproportionate numbers than white suburbanites. This measure helps equal the legal weed playing field.
And while I don’t expect the New Jersey legislature to take it that far, they have to do something. They have to allow people who were previously locked up on marijuana charges the same rights as people who weren’t.
There is historical precedent: Just look at what happened after Prohibition. The bootleggers went legit. Even the mob was allowed to access to the legal booze industry.
After decades of locking people up for marijuana in New Jersey, it would be wholly unfair and immoral for the legislature to legalize marijuana and leave behind the tens of thousands of state residents who have a criminal record for the very substance that’s about to make - let’s be honest - big corporations and suburbanites rich.
Marijuana is displayed at the River Rock dispensary in Denver. The federal government takes another step toward enabling a legalized marijuana industry to operate in the U.S., announcing that it will allow banks to do business with legal marijuana sellers.