Unitarians Support Legal Marijuana in New Jersey

Rev. Alexander E. Sharp NJ, Unitarian Universalist Perspectives

On December 12, 2019, Rev. Rob Gregson, Executive Director of UU FaithAction New Jersey, appeared before the New Jersey Senate Commerce Committee on the proposed ballot initiative to legalize marijuana for adult use. We provide his testimony here.  Since 2015 when my predecessor, Rev. Craig Hirschberg, gave what we believe was the first denominational testimony in favor of legalizing marijuana in New Jersey, Unitarian Universalists of Faith Action New Jersey has consistently supported the safe, regulated, socially just legalization position.   While Unitarian Universalists in general, and UU FaithAction in particular, would have been happier with a legislative solution rather than a ballot question, on balance we agree that from an ethical and justice perspective, it is better to have ballot legalization than continue with the current system which largely allows people who look like me [white] and live in suburban neighborhoods like mine to escape being caught up in the criminal justice system for smoking or healing.  Black and brown residents of more urban or poorer neighborhoods don’t have that same luxury. The only broadly compelling reason we, as a faith-raised body, decided to take a stand for marijuana legalization is because it would end the ill-conceived and horribly racially biased “War on Drugs.”   Looking forward I hope you will support future legislation like the expungement bill currently before the Legislature that attempts to make some small reparations—and I use that word advisedly and deliberately—aimed to address the grossly unethical place we may find ourselves in if and when the ballot is successful:  well-heeled, largely white business men and women begin making dollars hand-over-fist only weeks after others have been fined or even imprisoned for the same exact act.   When reparation, or legislation—or come up with a more palatable word if you like—comes before you over the next few years, I hope you will take these disparities very, very seriously.