Cannabis Reparations Sign-On Letter
Dear Governor Murphy, Speaker Coughlin, and President Sweeney,

We write to you as faith leaders grounded in our history, beliefs, and prophetic callings.

In 1804, New Jersey became the last northern state to let enslaved people free as a result of the Gradual Abolition Act. This did not guarantee that an enslaved person born after 1804 would be free. It would take 61 more years until all enslaved people in New Jersey were freed because of the Civil War. There was never a systematic reparation of land or wealth equity from the 200 years of stolen life and liberty.

The history of institutionalized systematic oppression continues today. New Jersey is one of the most segregated states in the nation as it relates to housing and schools. New Jersey has one of the nation’s largest racial wealth gaps. The Drug War is also a platform for oppression. The Drug War is devastating and destroying Black life in New Jersey. To this day, we know African Americans are 3 times more likely to be stopped, frisked, arrested, and charged for drug possession and use even though Blacks and whites use at similar rates. Marijuana possession and use has consistently been a primary tool of criminalization and dehumanization for Black New Jersesyans.

We stand at the edge of marijuana legalization. We are a diverse body of faithful leaders with varied positions on legalization.

We are of one prophetic and pastoral accord on reparations.

Cannabis legalization must be done in a racially just way. This platform cannot be used as another means to marginalize our communities again. Don’t tear us down again. Don’t create another racially unjust system again.

We raise the following demands to ensure this cannabis legislation is inherently antiracist:

1. Direct a cannabis excise tax for reparations and repair the harm done by the drug war: Revenue should be used to support vital community-centered services including, but not limited to: evidenced-based prevention, intervention, and community block grants, violence prevention and restorative justice programs, job training, legal aid for civil and criminal cases, health education programs, housing assistance, food assistance, healthcare services, re-entry services, youth recreation or mentoring, and literacy programs.

2. Discourage the underground market by creating incentives and lower barriers to entry with low tax (or no tax) for those previously convicted for distribution for at least as long as they were convicted.

3. Financial resources to support grants, no-interest loans, and programming to help individuals from impact zones and those with prior cannabis-related criminal records to enter into the cannabis industry or another industry of their choice.

4. Impact Zones should also be redefined to ensure smaller urban areas like Trenton and Camden would qualify.

5. Create an “Equity Applicant” status in the bill, a designation that covers both impact zone applicants and people with prior cannabis-related criminal records and their immediate family.

6. Expand the 15% of licenses reserved for impact zone applicants to 45% percent of licenses for Equity Applicants in order to accommodate the larger eligibility pool.

7. Ensure that at least 10% of each license class is reserved for Equity Applicants.

8. To qualify as an equity applicant at least 51% of the entity must be owned by applicants with equity status.

9. There must be an updated racial impact analysis which should be done with an economic impact statement. The law should not proceed without demonstrable disproportionately positive impact on Black communities in arrests, enforcement, and economics.

We cannot offer our support publicly or privately without the above demands being met. We are clear-eyed in the teachings of our traditions to center those most unjustly treated, to pursue justice, and grant liberty and life to Black New Jerseyans. We cannot allow any other standard in our law.

With continued commitment to a faithful liberation,

Signatures to follow.
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