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San Francisco to Wipe Out Thousands of Marijuana Convictions

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 12:06
The city is going proactive on getting past pot busts off people's records.

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office will wipe out thousands of marijuana convictions going back decades, opening up new job and housing opportunities to those arrested for cannabis-related offenses, the city’s top prosecutor announced Wednesday.

“We want to address the wrongs caused by the failures of the war on drugs for many years in this country,” San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said when announcing the new policy at a press conference Wednesday.

Proposition 64, the voter-backed ballot measure that legalized marijuana in 2016, allows those convicted of marijuana offenses to petition to have their convictions overturned or sentences reduced.

Instead of waiting for people to petition to get their records cleared, Gascon said his office would proactively expunge 3,038 misdemeanor convictions and review nearly 5,000 felony convictions, many of which may be downgraded to misdemeanors with reduced sentences.

“As progressive as San Francisco is, a misdemeanor or felony conviction for marijuana can have significant implications for your employment ability, housing, education and many other benefits,” Gascon said.

An estimated 2.8 million Californians were arrested for cannabis-related offenses over the last century, but less than 5,000 people have petitioned to have their convictions overturned since Proposition 64 took effect, Gascon said.

The process for getting marijuana convictions cleared can be time consuming, the district attorney said. It often requires individuals to file petitions, hire lawyers and go to court.

“You shouldn’t have to come to court and miss a day of work to get your record expunged,” Gascon said. “We will do all the work for them.”

When asked how long the effort will take or how much it will cost, Gascon could not offer a specific timeline or price tag. He said the work of expunging misdemeanor convictions would mostly be done by paralegals, but reviewing felony convictions will take more time and effort.

Some felony convictions could be related to other offenses, and each case must be reviewed individually to determine if a sentence reduction is appropriate, he said.

Rev. Amos Brown, president of the San Francisco chapter of the NAACP, hailed the new policy as an important piece in the effort to undo the wrongs of an “unjust system” that has disproportionately arrested and jailed people of color on drug-related crimes.

“I feel this is a giant step toward justice, and it is a stride toward setting black people free to live in the community, to have jobs, to have healthcare and to have decent education,” Brown said, adding he hopes trade unions offer jobs to those who get their criminal records expunged through this new program.

San Francisco District 6 Supervisor Malia Cohen said this initiative will go “hand-in-hand’ with the city’s new equity program, intended to help low-income residents, people of color and those convicted of drug offenses find job and business opportunities in the city’s cannabis industry.

“Those people most adversely affected by the war on drugs will get a little bit of a break from a system that’s been targeting African American, Latino, and Pacific Islander communities since the 1980s,” Cohen said.

Nicole Elliot, director of the city’s Office of Cannabis, encouraged other top prosecutors across the state to follow Gascon’s lead.

“My hope is that this same effort will be replicated across the state by other district attorneys,” she said.

On Jan. 4, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed an Obama-era marijuana policy and authorized federal prosecutors to enforce cannabis laws in states like California that have legalized marijuana for recreational or medicinal use.

Gascon said while the federal government appears to have taken a step “backwards” on drug policy, San Francisco will continue working to reverse the harms caused by the 47-year-old war on drugs.

“While the national government has taken a direction sort of going backwards when it comes to drug policy, here in San Francisco again we have an opportunity to lead the way,” Gascon said. “We want to address the wrongs caused by the failures of the war on drugs for many years in this country and begin to fix some of the harm that was done not only to the entire nation but specifically to communities of color.”



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Here’s The Latest Research Results On Marijuana And Heart Health

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 11:54
To shed more light on this subject, researchers went back to examine the data from dozens of studies on marijuana and the heart.

Although some preliminary research from last year frightened the cannabis community when it suggested that regular pot smokers were three times more likely to succumb to hypertension, a more recent analysis finds this is not necessarily the case. It seems that until the more research is conducted on the herb, the scientific world remains mostly in the dark about the overall affect of cannabis on cardiovascular health.

To shed more light on this subject, researchers went back to examine the data from dozens of studies on marijuana and heart health. Essentially, the main focus was to learn whether marijuana causes elevated cholesterol levels or high blood pressure. The study group searched for any evidence linking marijuana to heart disease. But what they ultimately discovered was that all of the previous research surrounding this topic is flawed.

“Evidence examining the effect of marijuana on cardiovascular risk factors and outcomes … is insufficient,” researchers concluded, according to a report from Business Insider.

The results of the latest study are consistent with a much larger investigation published last year. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which consists of some of the leading scientific minds in the country, determined there was “insufficient evidence” that smoking marijuana was a detriment to heart health. More specifically, the group was unable to establish whether cannabis could trigger a heart attack.

Still, science says that marijuana does in fact increase a person’s heart rate by up to 50 beats a minute. Some believe this means the herb definitely has a negative affect on heart function. Yet, all of this “limited evidence” is all over the place. Some smaller studies have shown that marijuana might actually have the power to lower blood pressure, rather than increase it. In the end, the scientific community remains stumped.

But it is not likely we will have any definitive answers with respect to marijuana and the heart anytime in the near future. Until the federal government chooses to downgrade the Schedule I classification of the cannabis plant under the Controlled Substances Act, research will be hard to come by. As it stands, scientists have a tough time getting green lit for studies to examine the health benefits of cannabis because of all the red tape they have to cut through to get approval from all of the pertinent government agencies. This has caused researchers like Dr. Sue Sisley to get jammed up in her years-long exploration of medical marijuana as a treatment for patients with PTSD.

Considering that marijuana is legal in over half the nation for medicinal and recreational purposes, now would be a good time for the Trump administration to initiate the rescheduling process. Because not knowing how marijuana impacts the heart and other factors is the real risk to public health and safety.


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Historian Creeped Out By Trump's "Fascist" Story About Cop Adopting Addict's Baby -- Here's Why

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 11:35
The president's feel good story has a dark side.

President Donald Trump praised a New Mexico police officer in his State of the Union address for adopting a heroin addict’s baby — but a historian noticed some disturbing parallels in the anecdote.

The president highlighted Albuquerque police officer Ryan Holets, who while on duty in September encountered a pregnant, homeless woman as she prepared to inject heroin.

“When Ryan told her she was going to harm her unborn child, she began to weep,” Trump said. “She told him she did not know where to turn, but badly wanted a safe home for her baby. In that moment, Ryan said he felt God speak to him: ‘You will do it — because you can.’ He took out a picture of his wife and their four kids. Then, he went home to tell his wife Rebecca. In an instant, she agreed to adopt. The Holets named their new daughter Hope.”

“Ryan and Rebecca: You embody the goodness of our nation,” the president added. “Thank you, and congratulations.”

Historian Angus Johnson couldn’t help but notice the contrast between the language Trump used to tell that story and his rhetoric against Latino and other immigrants brought to the United States as children.

“In the context of the full speech, of Trump’s presidency, this story is a question and an answer,” Johnson tweeted. “What do we do with the children of those we despise? If they’re brown, we expel them from our land. If they are white, we take them for ourselves.”

The City University of New York professor paid attention to the details Trump’s speechwriters chose to omit from Holet’s story, and those they chose to highlight.

“We don’t know what process was followed in this adoption,” Johnson said. “We don’t know where the mother of this child is now, how she’s doing, what her relationship with her kid is. Trump’s people could have said. They chose not to. They chose to erase her.”

Johnson drew a parallel between the presidential anecdote and the history of los desaparecidos — or, the disappeared — Argentinians who vanished after a military junta took over in 1974, and many of the political prisoners’ babies were stolen and given to party loyalists.

“The children of subversives were seen, (historian Marguerite) Feitlowitz explained, as ‘seeds of the tree of evil,'” reported New York magazine. “Perhaps through adoption, those seeds could be replanted in healthy soil.”

Johnson pointed out the baby’s mother was still homeless as of December and not in contact with her child or the adoptive family — and the historian was disturbed by the way Trump wrote the woman out of her own story.

“That erasure wasn’t accidental,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t merely rhetorical. It was ideological. It was an expression of a specific kind of ethno-natalism we’ve seen before. It was fascist.”


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Weed and Bitcoin Are Luring Millennials to Wall Street

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 11:22
That 2017 was a banner year for the stock market probably helped, too.




Cannabis stocks and cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin helped fuel an explosion of millennial investors on Wall Street in 2017. ... Ameritrade's CEO Tim Hockey told Business Insider last week. Hockey said marijuana and blockchain stocks helped entice millennials, who have been historically distrustful of the market that crashed during either ...

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Drug Companies Sell Us Remedies for Problems Caused by Their Own Products—And the Federal Government Helps Them

Tue, 01/30/2018 - 12:07
Click here for reuse options! This should be a clear violation of antitrust laws.

Like most folks, you dutifully rub shampoo into your hair daily or a few times each week. After it strips out your hair’s natural moisture and liveliness, you apply a conditioner to get that moisture and liveliness back.

Much about modern life seems to follow this general pattern.

Mounting evidence suggests multinational companies negligently sell products to the public that are leading drivers of public health issues, while at the same time another division presents the “remedy” for that same harm. A panacea for their own poison, as it were. In this way, they profit twice: once when they supply the cause of our ailments, and again when we come to them for the cure.

It is clear that all is not well in Big Pharma these days. Americans have yet to coalesce around a plan to impose transparency and integrity on health care and pharmaceutical companies. Meanwhile, mounting evidence suggests the industry persists in the peddling hundreds of products each year with dubious claims and even more dubious real-world effects — all while maintaining stupefyingly high profit margins.

Sick and Getting Sicker

The real topics today are corporate consolidation and corruption. There may be no better example of this problem than Johnson & Johnson, a corporation made up of more than 250 subsidiaries. You may recall that the pharma giant’s talc-based baby powder is now inextricably linked to incidences of ovarian cancer. Websites that concern themselves with preventing this type of cancer specifically recommend omitting talcum powders from your daily constitutionals.

Fortunately for Johnson & Johnson’s bottom line, at least one company from its panoply of subsidiaries — Janssen Pharmaceuticals — charitably offers chemotherapy drugs for ovarian cancer patients for a mere $2,758 per dose. You can recognize it by the marketing-friendly name “Doxil.”

Let’s do another example.

You’re probably familiar with the sugar alternative called Equal. Equal and Canderel represent the Merisant Corporation’s two most common and most profitable sugar substitutes currently on the market. Mind you, such products are largely marketed toward health-conscious consumers who wish to eliminate sugar from their diet.

The only trouble is, these products contain aspartame — and mounting evidence links aspartame with Alzheimer’s disease, various cancers and multiple sclerosis.

Thankfully, MacAndrews & Forbes — the multinational that owns Merisant — also owns vTv Therapeutics, which (you guessed it) makes a pretty penny selling treatments for literally every health horror aspartame allegedly contributes to.

Selling Snakeoil (With Government’s Help?)

The False Claims Act exists for a reason in America, theoretically. Under its guidance, corporations paid around $38.9 billion in damages and restitution between 1987 and 2013 for lying to the public about what their products actually do.

But context is everything here. For scale, the United States’ entire GDP in 2016 was $18.5 trillion. What good is a $38-billion slap on the wrist, spread across 25 years and dozens of corporations? And where’s the evidence that these weak, punitive, reactionary measures actually get results? We need a system that prevents fraud — not one which reacts as an afterthought after it’s already taken place.

How do we fix this?

The Politics of Corporate and Human Dignity

To begin with, we have to recognize that America is one of only two developed countries in the world that allows pharmaceutical companies to market directly to consumers. They take advantage of this by spending, collectively, $3 billion on advertising to convince Americans to convince their doctors that they have a health concern worth writing a prescription for.

But what about the flagrant conflicts of interest like the ones we described above? How can it be that corporations wield power equal to governments and owns both the means to make us sick and to cure us?

The answer is simple: America stopped enforcing antitrust laws some time ago.

Part of the reason is because nearly everything about commerce is vastly different than it was when anti-monopoly laws first hit our books. We didn’t envision a world where companies could grow so diversified in the products they sell. We wrote our laws to tackle monopolies within a single industry. We didn’t anticipate that a single company could dominate several very different sectors. Look at what happened to the stocks of supermarket companies after Amazon bought Whole Foods. That shouldn’t really be possible.

Then, overlay all of this with the cancerous influence of money in politics. Money has always shaped policy, but it’s been getting worse and worse since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Now, if policy is on the table — which might rein in corruption in a given industry — that industry mobilizes its army of lobbyists to kill that particular piece of legislation. Think of how Big Telecom frequently buys off local politicians and then instructs them to put up roadblocks to municipal broadband projects, which would easily deliver faster and cheaper service than American ISPs are “legally” required to provide. And then they charge extra for higher speeds.

These are all symptoms of the same disease, and that disease is institutional greed. Greed is why health care and many other products in America — even those which serve the public good in an obvious way, such as health care, education and access to the internet — gets worse and worse while simultaneously more expensive.

As the saying goes, they’ve got us coming and going.

Government for the Little People

When all else fails, we can turn to the smallest government there is — the minority — and vote with our wallets for the sorts of companies and world we want. We have more information than ever before and we can share it more effectively than ever. Being aware is the first and most critical step in this fight.

But it’s also clear we need a more organized resistance against multi-continental, multinational health, food and cosmetics empires that operate with the autonomy of sovereign nations. We need greater public awareness and then we need homegrown public servants who act on it by speaking truth to power and greed, which often arrive conveniently packaged as a set, much like shampoo and conditioner.

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Marijuana Use Doesn't Affect the Odds of Getting Pregnant

Tue, 01/30/2018 - 11:50
Hoary old myths notwithstanding...

Marijuana use—by either men or women—does not appear to lower a couple’s chances of getting pregnant, according to a new study.

About 15 percent of couples experience infertility. Infertility costs the US healthcare system more than $5 billion per year, and thus identifying modifiable risk factors for infertility, including recreational drug use, is of public health importance. Marijuana is one of the most widely used recreational drugs among individuals of reproductive age. Previous studies have examined the effects of marijuana use on reproductive hormones and semen quality, with conflicting results.

“Given the increasing number of states legalizing recreational marijuana across the nation, we thought it was an opportune time to investigate the association between marijuana use and fertility,” says lead author Lauren Wise, professor of epidemiology at the Boston University School of Public Health.

The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, was the first to evaluate the link between fecundability—the average per-cycle probability of conception—and marijuana use.

In Pregnancy Study Online (PRESTO), a web-based prospective cohort study of North American couples, the researchers surveyed 4,194 women aged 21 to 45 living in the United States or Canada. The study specifically targeted women in stable relationships who were not using contraception or fertility treatment. Female participants had the option to invite their male partners to participate; 1,125 of their male partners enrolled.

The researchers found that during the period from 2013 through 2017, approximately 12 percent of female participants and 14 percent of male participants reported marijuana use in the two months before completing the baseline survey. After 12 cycles of follow-up, conception probabilities were similar among couples that used marijuana and those that did not.

The researchers stressed that questions about the effects of marijuana use remain. As one example, they say, classifying people correctly according to the amount of marijuana used, especially when relying on self-reported data, is challenging. “Future studies with day-specific data on marijuana use might better be able to distinguish acute from chronic effects of marijuana use, and evaluate whether effects depend on other factors,” they write.

Additional coauthors are from Boston University and Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark.

Source: Boston University

Original Study DOI: 10.1136/jech-2017-209755


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The Medical Marijuana Movement Has Lost a Founding Father: RIP, Dennis Peron

Tue, 01/30/2018 - 00:18
He founded the nation's first dispensary, and his activism helped shape our world.

The individual most responsible for the medical marijuana movement in CA, and eventually in more than 30 states across this country, was San Francisco gay rights and marijuana advocate Dennis Peron, who died this past weekend from lung cancer at age 71.

Peron was drafted and sent to Vietnam in 1966, where he first discovered marijuana. When his tour of duty ended and he returned home, he also managed to bring wo pounds of marijuana with him – starting a career that he later acknowledged would last more than 40-years. In the 1970s, he opened the Big Top, a café in San Francisco where marijuana was openly sold and customers could smoke and socialize. The café was eventually closed by San Francisco police, who arrested Peron on numerous occasions.

Peron was among the earliest marijuana and gay rights advocates to recognize that marijuana could provide relief to HIV-positive and AIDS patients. In 1991 he organized the nation’s first medical marijuana initiative, Proposition P,  approved by 80% of voters of San Francisco. Subsequently, he founded the nation’s first medical marijuana dispensary, the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers’ Club, where patients with HIV and other illnesses could openly buy, use and share marijuana.

The “buyers club” served as many as 11,000 patients before eventually being forced to close by the courts in 1998.

In 1996, with the help of Dale Gieringer and CA NORML, Peron organized the first state initiative to legalize medical marijuana, the Compassionate Use Act (Prop. 215), which went on to be approved by 56% of California voters. The favorable experience with medical marijuana in CA eventually led to the adoption of medical marijuana laws in an additional 29 states and growing.

But Peron’s influence went well beyond the medical use of marijuana. Of the 9 states that have now legalized the recreational use of marijuana by adults, each one has first adopted the medical use of marijuana. Only after the states had grown comfortable with medical use, and had seen first-hand that marijuana was an important medicine that helped tens of thousands of seriously ill Americans, were they willing to move forward to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults, regardless of why they smoked.

All of us who smoke marijuana, whether for medical or recreational use, are truly indebted to the courageous early work of Dennis Peron. Without his willingness to stand-up publicly and fight for the medical use of marijuana, despite it’s illegal status at that time, we would not be where we are today.

May he rest in peace


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GHB Is Making a Comeback: What You Need to Know

Mon, 01/29/2018 - 11:45
The drug GHB gained notoriety during raves decades ago, but it is resurfacing again.

A highly potent drug called GHB is making a comeback in nightlife scenes, along with overdoses and even death. On Jan. 23, 2018, “Storm Chaser” star Joel Taylor died on a cruise ship. Celebrity news site TMZ reported that Taylor may have used GHB in the hours before his death.

GHB, or gamma-hydroxybutyrate, has been referred to as a “date rape drug” by the media for decades, as it has been involved in instances of sexual predators spiking unsuspecting womens’ drinks to take advantage of them while unconscious. However, much of the public is unaware that most of use of this highly potent drug is actually intentional.

I am a public health researcher who studies party drug use in the nightclub scene. I have learned a great deal through my research and through what I have witnessed firsthand in my years in this scene. Use of this drug largely disappeared from the scene, but it appears to be emerging again in popularity.

Initially, a sleep aid

GHB gained popularity in the 1990s, when it was sold over-the-counter in vitamin supplement stores as a sleep aid and growth hormone enhancer. In 1990, at least 100 people were reportedly poisoned using GHB, and the Food Drug Administration banned sales of the substance. However, availability continued, as did outbreaks of poisonings.

Use can lead to a range of adverse effects ranging from nausea and vomiting to seizures, repressed breathing, and even death. Despite the ban, GHB use increased throughout the 1990s, and the drug was made illegal to possessin March 2000. Recreational use eventually decreased, but there appears to be a recent uptick in use — especially in the gay party scene.

While GHB induces sleep, the drug causes users to feel high before falling unconscious. Therefore, in my observation, most users of GHB attempt to take small doses in order to experience the high without falling unconscious. This practice of using GHB to get high began in the 1990s and led to GHB’s popularity in nightclubs.

However, doses of GHB are difficult to calibrate as it is highly potent with a steep dose-response curve, and co-using GHB with alcohol increases its effects. Higher than intended doses or combining it with drugs like alcohol can easily render someone unconscious.

The party scene

What is particularly unique about GHB is that onset of unconsciousness can occur quickly. A user can be dancing and talking with friends, yet a few seconds later fall on the floor unconscious and temporarily unwakeable. In fact, most users expect to “overdose” at some point and fall unconscious.

Witnessing the problems associated with GHB use so often in nightclubs was the main reason I became a drug researcher. I was deeply immersed in the after-hours New York City nightclub scene in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when GHB popularity was at its peak.

GHB was especially popular in dance clubs, where dancers could get a quick high. KK Tan/

By 2001, almost every week I witnessed multiple overdoses. I’ve helped carry unconscious bodies from dance floors, I’ve had good friends of mine die after using GHB, and I had even witnessed some of the infamous hidden rooms in some nightclubs that held bodies of unconscious users where nightclub staff waited for them to gain consciousness hours later. Some New York City nightclubs even had their own private ambulance services in order to not alert authorities about the GHB problem in their venues.

GHB use declined in response to the abundance of overdoses and increased stigma toward use. In New York City, some major venues closed, largely in response to so many GHB overdoses.

The popularity of GHB

GHB is by no means a popular drug in the general population. Only about 3 out of 1,000 young adults (age 18-25) in the U.S. are estimated to have ever knowingly used the drug.

But things are much different in the nightclub scene. My colleagues and I, for example, found that among electronic dance music attendees in New York City in 2015, nearly 1 out of 10 attendees reported ever using GHB. However, most of the individuals we surveyed identified as heterosexual.

Use is more prevalent among gay men and men who have sex with men (MSM) in party scenes. For example, a recent study of MSM nightclub attendees in South London found that more than half reported GHB use in the past year.

But GHB is not only popular in the nightclub scene for dancing and socializing; it is a leading “ChemSex” drug — meaning it is often used intentionally to intensify sex. This is particularly prevalent among MSM.

What can be done to prevent more deaths?

GHB, due to its high likelihood of leading to overdose, is one of the most deleterious drugs to ever reach the party scene. Stigma toward users was a leading method of reducing prevalence in the early 2000s, and anti-GHB campaigns in the nightclub scene have already begun in Canada in response to recent overdoses. However, while stigma might prevent some people from using, this will lead others to resort to hiding their use. And hidden use is riskier.

The new generation of partiers needs to learn from the past. Yes, there are plenty of partiers who use GHB “safely,” and harm reduction techniques should be used among those who insist on using. But GHB commonly results in overdoses, and as is shown by the death of Joel Taylor who is suspected of taking GHB, sometimes use can lead to fatal outcomes.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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The Next Step After Legalizing Marijuana: Eliminating the Color Barrier

Mon, 01/29/2018 - 11:29
Under Chris Christie, black people were targeted more than whites for pot possession. Proper legislation will fix that.

Efforts to legalize marijuana for recreational use in the state of New Jersey have rapidly accelerated as the new Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy has been ushered into office.

Throughout his campaign, Murphy pledged he would legalize marijuana in the state for recreational use. Last Tuesday, he ordered a review of the state's medical marijuana program. His goals were to allow home delivery, permit purchases greater than the two-ounce limit and increase the amount of licensed dispensaries to expand patient access.

"This is the more immediate priority. We will get to, in due course, I think sooner than later, the whole recreational process," Murphy said after he signed the executive order.

Murphy's order was a step in the right direction, and plans to legalize recreational use in the state should develop in the coming months. But it's not simply just about legalizing marijuana — it's also about making an attempt to provide equality for New Jersey residents who have seen the war on marijuana destroy communities of color. That's why New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform (NJUMR), an alliance of "public safety, medical, civil rights, faith, political, and criminal justice reform organizations" has advocated not just for the end of the prohibition on marijuana but for efforts to create a fairer criminal justice system.

"The time is ripe for us to get a bill together that actually embodies racial justice and social justice," Dianna Houenou, policy counsel for the ACLU of New Jersey, told Salon. The ACLU is a member of NJUMR's steering committee.

Houenou pointed to measures nationwide to legalize marijuana "and then having to go back and fix some problems that arise after legalization."

"We think here in New Jersey we can get it done right from day one," Houenou explained. That requires getting people to understand the issues at play and "getting them to understand that we can address concerns in the legislation, so we can protect kids, we can make sure that money is reinvested into communities that have been targeted by the war on drugs and make sure that legalization can happen in a way that benefits all of New Jersey's communities."

In New York, even with its liberal decriminalization laws, law enforcement has still targeted people of color. Shaun King, a longtime criminal and racial justice journalist, writes:

Decriminalization efforts also don't go far enough and are not an effective way to make marijuana less of a criminal issue.

"It's not enough to just legalize marijuana and say that racial justice is achieved because we won't have any racially disproportionate arrests, that's not enough," Houenou explained to Salon. "To truly embody racial justice, legalization has to include expungements of peoples' prior records, we want to see money reinvested into communities that have been hit the hardest. We want to see meaningful access to the jobs and the ownership opportunities that are going to come with this new industry."

She added: "We want to see people be permitted to grow a limited number of plants, in their own home, for personal use. We think those are the basic four components that really capture racial justice and social justice."

Marijuana efforts in New Jersey were essentially halted for eight years under former Republican Gov. Chris Christie's administration, who embraced tough on crime rhetoric and stood firmly against legalization. The reality is that in recent years, New Jersey has cracked down on marijuana on a massive scale, arresting more for possession than ever before, a recent ACLU report highlighted. A possession arrest in the state occurs "on average every 22 minutes." Of course, this also means systematic racial disparities have skyrocketed as well.

In 2013, "Black New Jerseyans were three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, despite similar usage rates," the report showed. In 2000, blacks were only 2.2 times more likely.

But Murphy has a bold progressive vision for the state and has aspired to transform New Jersey into "the California of the East Coast."

Marijuana is one area in which New Jersey should follow the progressive West Coast state's lead. California has been trying to right the ship and undo the abuses that come from marijuana prohibitions — prohibitions that largely hurt people of color. Pacific Standard, a magazine with a focus on social justice and public policy issues, elaborated:

It's imperative that any legalization bill in New Jersey follows a model such as this, to usher in a new era and attempt to make any sort of amends for the old. With 59 percent of New Jerseyans supporting legal marijuana, it's a vision that is more than attainable.

Despite President Donald Trump administration's decision to turn back the clock on the so-called war on drugs, states across the country have made the conscious choice to move forward. Though, it's important to note that moving forward also means restoring what was destroyed to get to this point. There is no sense in legalizing marijuana if it doesn't properly address, and correct, the social and racial injustices that have boiled over and sparked the movement to end prohibition in the first place. In New Jersey, the new Murphy administration has already taken commendable progressive steps and has vowed to stand up to the Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions who have threatened to crackdown on legalization efforts. While the Democrats appear to be fractured in many ways, this is one issue that can, perhaps, help unify.


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