New Jersey’s new Democratic governor declared “full weed ahead” on marijuana legalization during his Tuesday inauguration speech.
Phil Murphy, a progressive Democrat, replaced Republican Chris Christie as governor Tuesday, and one of his first moves will be to legalize marijuana, New York Magazine reported Tuesday. It’s likely he’ll get his way, as the Democratic president of the state Senate has promised to put a marijuana bill on Murphy’s desk within 100 days. The process may take slightly longer than usual, however, as one of Christie’s last actions was to require lawmakers to draft a “racial impact” statement for any change to criminal law.
N.J. became the fourth state to enact a racial impact law Monday, requiring lawmakers to research whether a law would have a disproportionate effect on racial minorities, the Wall St. Journal reported Tuesday. Murphy also said he would seek to end certain mandatory minimum sentences, a goal that would also require one of the new impact statements.
The racial disparities in N.J.’s prison population are among the most dramatic in the country. The state’s prison population is 61 percent black, 22 percent white, and 16 percent Hispanic, data show. In contrast, the state’s general population is 14 percent black, 69 percent white, and 18 percent Hispanic, according to WSJ.
Murphy’s marijuana push comes just over a week after Attorney General Jeff Sessions scrapped the Cole Memo and instructed Justice Department prosecutors to enforce the federal marijuana ban in states that have legalized the drug. The previous hands-off approach was adopted under former President Barack Obama’s administration.
“In deciding which marijuana activities to prosecute under these laws with the department’s finite resources, prosecutors should follow the well-established principles that govern all federal prosecutions,” Sessions wrote in a memo to all federal prosecutors. “These principles require federal prosecutors deciding which cases to prosecute to weigh all relevant considerations of the crime, the deterrent effect of criminal prosecution, and the cumulative impact of particular crimes on the community.”
Some studies fly in the face of Sessions’ crackdown, however, showing that abuse of painkillers decreases in states with legalized weed.
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