NJ mayors: Erase more marijuana convictions or we’ll ban pot shops
A group of mayors is pushing for New Jersey to erase as many past marijuana convictions from the books as possible as part of making the drug legal, with the leaders of Newark and Jersey City saying they wouldn’t allow dispensaries in their borders if the expungements don’t go far enough.
“We believe that anybody with a possession of at least 50 grams or less should be expunged right away, immediately. We think that that is a good-faith effort, a good step,” said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.
“When New Jersey does move forward, it is important that they move forward in an aggressive way on expungements entirely,” Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop said.
The mayors of Clinton, Fanwood, Hoboken and Hope Township joined Baraka and Fulop for the event at Newark City Hall, saying their presence shows the matter isn’t only important to big cities.
“This is an issue that is obviously very important to urban areas but also in rural areas. It’s all relative, right?” said Hope Mayor Tim McDonough. “We’ve got the same problems out there as we have here in Newark and we have in the suburban areas as well.”
Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr, the president of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, said New Jersey needs “true restorative justice” to end the failed war on drugs. She didn’t commit to a threshold for where the Legislature should begin expungements.
“We know what is currently in the bills, and there is a consensus that that is not acceptable to us,” Mahr said.
Baraka said the current legislation would expunge criminal convictions for possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana. The bill is still being negotiated; other versions set the threshold at 1 ounce, which is a bit under 30 grams.
“There is some level of expungement in the legislation that exists. We just believe that it’s not enough, that it’s paltry. It’s too small,” Baraka said. “It does not affect the larger range of people that we think that it should. There are thousands, hundreds of thousands, of folks that would be left out.”
“You cannot allow people to make millions of dollars off of marijuana in the state of New Jersey while at the same time keep people incarcerated,” Baraka said.
Cities and towns would have to pass local ordinances allowing marijuana stores, if recreational use of marijuana by adults is approved by the Legislature.
Around 60 municipalities have already said they won’t allow such dispensaries.