A coalition of New Jersey Mayors are calling on state lawmakers to consider passing a bill that would expunge all misdemeanor convictions for possession of marijuana. They say they’re doing it for people like Ahmad Reed of Newark who was arrested for possession years ago and says it still sets back job opportunities.
“Non-violent cannabis offenders such as myself should be given the opportunity to work and obtain a decent job,” Reed said during a press conference at Newark City Hall. “It’s hard to move forward with a situation that transpires like this on a daily basis.”
Under the current legalization agreement, offenders with marijuana possession charges under 10 grams will have their records expunged. Newark Mayor Ras Baraka says it should be at least 50 grams or less.
“Personally, I believe it’s still a contradiction to allow people to make millions of dollars off of cannabis while people are in jail because of it,” Baraka said.
Baraka and Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop say they’ll oppose marijuana dispensaries in their respective municipalities if low level record expungement isn’t part of the legalization process.
“I think the expungement conversation regardless of where you are in the legalization conversation, the expungement one touches every municipality in the state of New Jersey,” Fulop said. “It’s one we should get moving right away on.”
Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr suggests marijuana legalization and expunging possession charges should be dealt with as two separate pieces of legislation.
“We don’t believe that they necessarily have to or should be intertwined,” she said. “I think this can stand on its own merits. We would be looking to sit at the table with legislative sponsors.”
“Address the social justice issues first get that passed and moved then come back and debate the other issues,” said state Senator Ron Rice. “But to try to marry the two together and try to add medical to that, it’s very confusing to the people.”
Still, there’s no timetable on any marijuana related bills, as negotiations between New Jersey’s top lawmakers stalled over how to tax it.