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Cannabis Pardoning Push Heats Up in New Jersey

December 22, 2020

A coalition of civil rights and drug policy reform groups in the state of New Jersey—including ACLU of New Jersey and NAACP New Jersey State Conference—has called upon Gov. Phil Murphy (D) to systematically pardon those with prior cannabis convictions to supplement New Jersey voter’s decision to legalize cannabis in November

Although legislation arrived on the governor’s desk last week from lawmaker in the state, the unified organizations say that the proposed measures do not go far enough in seeking justice for those most affected by the war on cannabis. 

Organizations Letter Lays Out Step-by-Step Reform Process for New Jersey Cannabis Pardon

In a letter shared exclusively with Marijuana Moment, the organizations suggested a step-by-step process the governor could take beginning this month and continuing through September 2021. The first round of pardons are called for: 

  • Those currently incarcerated over marijuana or paraphernalia-related convictions
  • Those awaiting trial in jail for related crimes 
  • Those who are non-citizens with felonies for marijuana crimes 

The letter went on to state that with the move from full criminalization to full legalization, much work remains to be done in mitigating the damage of “harsh penalties and overzealous enforcement.” The organizations deemed it inexcusable that individuals are in jail, prison, or on parole solely due to cannabis offenses, and deserve total clemency going forward. 

Current Pardoning Proposals Don’t Do Enough 

While legislation current set forth for review by Gov. Murphy attempts to reduce and pardon New Jersey cannabis offenses, advocate groups argue that it is too limited in which charges it covers and that the provisions will take place too slowly—near the end of 2021. The groups are pushing to ensure that those dealing with marijuana-related punishments won’t have to wait, and can “begin getting on with their lives now.”  

Some notable organizations that signed the letter were: 

  • ACLU of New Jersey 
  • NAACP New Jersey State Conference 
  • New Jersey Policy Perspective 
  • NORML 
  • Marijuana Policy Project 
  • New Jersey United for Mairjuana Reform 
  • Latino Action Network 
  • Salvation and Social Justice 

Contributed by Jack Berning