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State Sen. Ronald L. Rice. Photo by Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe.

Rice celebrates move for weed decriminalization

Newark senator: ‘We have moved mountains since Phil Murphy came into office’

By David Wildstein, November 27 2019 5:35 pm

State Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Newark) said that Gov. Phil Murphy’s decision to support the decriminalization of marijuana “a cause for celebration.”

“For all our feisty discussions and fiery debates in the New Jersey Legislature and government leadership, one fact can’t be denied,” Rice said in a statement issued this afternoon.  “We have moved mountains since Phil Murphy came into office.”

Murphy announced that week that he would support decriminalization as a temporary fix until voters decide the question of full legalization in a November 2020 referendum, but Rice said here is no reason to be disappointed by that.

“It is a long sought-after and hard-fought victory for any person or family caught up on the wrong side of a small-scale marijuana arrest, particularly people of color and those without the means to hire proper legal representation,” Rice said.

Rice said that decriminalization offers New Jersey a chance to end “our disgraceful practice of arresting 600 people each week for low-level marijuana offenses.”

“Because black and brown people are arrested and incarcerated for small amount marijuana use and possession at a rate of three times more than whites, decriminalization will go a long way to correct social injustice and an unfair, biased system,” Rice said.  “It downgrades offenses to misdemeanors, allows those in jail to go home to their families, and frees people from the yoke of a criminal record that prevents better housing and jobs, student financial aid or the driver’s license necessary for a fresh start on life.”

According to Rice, decriminalization puts New Jersey on the “right side of history.”

“It shows compassion and a commitment to equality and justice,” said Rice, an eleven-term senator from Essex County.

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