A new coalition of progressive groups is calling on New Jersey officials to decriminalize drugs in a bid to redirect funds used on policing and incarceration back to communities.
Abolish The Drug War New Jersey — the coalition founded by a bevy of progressive groups, including New Jersey Policy Perspective, the New Jersey Harm Reduction Coalition, the Latino Action Network, Fair in New Jersey and the state branch of the ACLU, among others—wants to strip criminal penalties from drug use and focus those funds toward local groups in communities of color.
“Criminalization of drugs has only served to increase police violence, stigmatize drug use, and limit future opportunities through criminal penalties, which disproportionately impact Black and brown people. To achieve meaningful racial and social justice in New Jersey, we must take a public health and restorative justice approach in addressing drug possession and use,” ACLU-NJ Executive Director Amol Sinha said.
State lawmakers in December approved a bill reducing penalties for possession of hallucinogenic mushrooms and are jockeying over bills to decriminalize and legalize recreational marijuana use. Gov. Phil Murphy has yet to sign the mushrooms bill.
The coalition hopes to enable programs to reduce harm in such communities and help release inmates held on drug crimes that have historically disproportionately targeted Black and Brown residents.
“New Jersey lawmakers must understand that, for decades, oppressive drug laws have dehumanized and harmed the very communities they are sworn to serve,” New Jersey Policy Perspective President Brandon McKoy said. “The people of this state support decriminalization efforts – as we saw most recently in November’s election. Now it’s time for Trenton to step up to the plate and build a system that addresses drug use with humanity, compassion, and restoration.”