Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Next Governor and NJ’s Pot Law Siege / Letter to Hopefuls

Please consider joining us in pressuring NJ Gubernatorial hopefuls for immediate action to end NJ’s cannabis prohibition and an immediate overturning of prohibition upon their prospective election – you can use the letter we are sending (see bottom of article) to write your own letter.  E-mail addresses are included of those who have been identified as possible Gubernatorial candidates.  You can also help by sharing and tweeting this link to any and all press contacts that you have and by calling them to cover the issue of the cannabis prohibition positions of the various candidates.  Tweet this link also to the Guvernatorial candidate hopefuls whose twitter names are also provided.

There are many out there, including cannabis legalization activists, that believe that the next NJ governor – once Christie deflates once and for all – will likely bring about cannabis legalization.

In a recent article in the wake of the machine gun armed police raid on the business establishment of The NJ Weedman (Ed Forchion) a Trentonian columnist Jeff Edelstein offered this optimism:

Give it a few years, put someone who agrees with 60 percent of the country in the governor’s chair, and I promise you New Jersey will make it legal."

Due to some inaccuracies in Jeff Edelstein’s article, I wrote a reponse on this Blogsite:

Specifically addressing his contention that the next governor will legalize, I respond:
In the few years (until a future governor might legalize) – depending upon whether a few means 2 or 4, somewhere around 50,000 to 100,000 more NJ residents will have been arrested – a harrowing experience where you get physically handled by officers armed with the implements to possibly kill you – you immediately lose your freedom and are thrown in an unhealthy holding cell until you either make bail or face trial.   . . .  While Christie is at the very bottom of his approval rating, he has worked hard at alienating every sector of NJ to get to that low ebb – including much of his own base that used to idolize him as a hero.  So while Christie could not get elected there is no guarantee that the next governor will be a Democrat and there is no guarantee that even if s/he is a Democrat that s/he will make legalization a priority to occur at any point early in their term or during the term at all.  And in the interim, the arrest figures and the lives disrupted, some of those lives ruined, will pile up by the 10s of 1000s.”

In a follow up twitter exchange after writing that article, I suggested to Jeff Edelstein that he attempt to interview the prospective guvernatorial candidates.  He states that he has been trying to but that they have been evasive.  That to me suggests that they are unwilling to allow themselves to have their views on cannabis legalization pinned down publicly.  They likely want to be able to solicit votes from those on both sides of the question.  That would make any dependence on the next governor being the magic bullet for legalization self delusional at best.

The whole discussion of cannabis legalization being as simple as electing a new governor, brings to mind the issue of the attempt to bring about gay marriage legalization in NJ under John Corzine.  Of course he was supposed to be a big liberal with every intention of legalizing gay marriage.  In the early part of his governorship, he had Democrat majorities in the Senate and Assembly – but there were always greater priorities than such a social issue as legalization . . . that time of gay marriage.  The democratic majority slipped away.  Corzine waited until the bottom of the 9th to push for it with any vigor – to the last days of his term – but it really was just a show.  While the measure still might have succeeded had he pushed it in the Senate first – or had he really pushed hard in getting his own democratic party behind it – it ended up failing with some of the biggest liberals in the legislature voting it down.  That is what happens when you trust that a change in leadership is going to make a change and that is the likely outcome if the strategy of the legalize movement is to wait for the next governor and depend upon the next governor – to legalize cannabis in NJ.

I am not suggesting that proponents of legalization of cannabis completely ignore the Gubernatorial election – to the contrary – be all over all the candidates – and be willing to trumpet the position of any non-mainstream candidates that have a clear position supporting immediate legalization upon changing of the governorship.  From right now – reporters and legalize proponents – need to press every single candidate – including republicans, democrats, Green Party, Socialist Party or any other party or line on the ballot.  Some of the questions that need to put to them:

 They can be asked: What is their position?  How much of a priority do they see legalization being?  Assuming legislative support, how quickly would their administration bring about legalization?  What would their plan be to bring about legalization?  How will they handle the related issue of Decarceration?  What will they do to stop continued arrests immediately upon taking office?

This news agency slide show provides some of the potential mainstream party candidates that will likely contend in 2017 – 4 republicans and 6 democrats:


Decarcerate the Garden State urges all proponents of legalization to start now in contacting these Gubernatorial hopefuls (GH’s).  We are doing so with the following letter – versions of which will be sent to all of them – even the republican candidates.  As these GHs rear their heads and travel the state and speak around the state in the months ahead – legalize and Decarcerate proponents should have organized presence – with questions, signs and if need be – vocal participation in the events.

We need to set expectations for all of the candidates that we want the next governor to address the crisis of mass arrests of cannabis consumers – the epidemic of the violence this racist enforcement brings into the community – to be addressed immediately through executive fiat followed by legislative action upon the seating of the next governor.  In the meantime – we need to call them out for immediate action now – to speak join us in demanding a moratorium on cannabis arrests and prosecutions in NJ, a vacating of all current charges, fines and penalties being meted out.

Be encouraged take the letter and modify it to your own liking – you are free to identify yourself as a member of Decarcerate the Garden State (or of course whatever group you have affinity for).


Republicans:
John Bramnick, current Assembly Republican Leader,
asmbramnick@njleg.org
Randy Brown, Mayor Evesham Townshio, Mayor.Brown@evesham-nj.gov @MayorRandyBrown
Kim Guadagno, former prosecutor and Lt. Governor under Gov. Christie, Feedback@sos.nj.gov,  @KimGuadagnoNJ
Tom Kean Jr., NJ State Senate Leader, senkean@njleg.org , @tomkean


Democrats:
Joe Divincenzo, Essex County Executive, joedi@admin.essexcountynj.org, @Joe_D_EssexExec
Steven Fulop, Mayor of Jersey City,
info@stevenfulop.com
 , @StevenFulop
Raymond Lesniak, NJ Senator, rlesniak@weinerlesniak.com  @SenatorLesniak
Phil Murphy, New Start NJ,
info@nsnj.org @newstartnj
Stephen Sweeney, NJ Senate President, SenSweeney@njleg.org @NJSenatePres
John Wisniewski, NJ Assembly, AsmWisniewski@njleg.org @AssemblymanWiz

Formatted for a single e-mail to all:

asmbramnick@njleg.org; Mayor.Brown@evesham-nj.gov; Feedback@sos.nj.gov; senkean@njleg.org; joedi@admin.essexcountynj.org, info@stevenfulop.com; rlesniak@weinerlesniak.com; info@nsnj.org; SenSweeney@njleg.org; AsmWisniewski@njleg.org 


Tweet Dem candidates:
Cannabis prohibition? @Joe_D_EssexExec @StevenFulop  @SenatorLesniak @newstartnj @NJSenatePres @AssemblymanWiz http://bit.ly/1O8URBN

Tweet Rep candidates:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
PRESS RELEASE
Contact Bob Witanek 908-881-5275 Decarc@DecarcerateNJ.org

The founding member of Decarcerate the Garden State, Bob Witanek, has sent a letter to 10 prospective NJ Gubernatorial candidates urging their immediate action in support of ending NJ cannabis prohibition and enforcement of prohibition laws.  He has called for such action to begin immediately in the current capacities the candidates currently hold.  He has also called for them to spell out exactly how they will “to put an end to the crisis of mass arrests in NJ for cannabis possession” should they assume the position of NJ Governor.  The following is the letter that has been sent.  At this point no response has been received:

Dear NJ Governatorial Hopeful,

As a founding member of Decarcerate the Garden State, a statewide organization with over 1000 members, I am writing you to urge your outspoken commitment immediately in support of immediate action to put an end to the crisis of mass arrests in NJ for cannabis possession.  As the rest of the nation moves further toward legalization and decriminalization, NJ moves in the opposite direction with arbitrary increase of annual arrests, now topping off near 25000 per year.

According to the ACLU report of 2011, Black NJ residents are about 3 times as likely to be arrested for cannabis than white residents and NJ expends $127 million per year on enforcement of the outdated prohibition of cannabis.

Many are counting on the next governor to bring about an end to the Barbary of cannabis prohibition.   Whatever your personal opinions on cannabis use, you need to face up to it that times are finally changing and NJ is totally out of step with its residents and with the rest of the country on this issue.

NJ’s laws are a scourge.  So is the rampant over enforcement – and the threat of violence that every arrest represents.  These arrests are interrupting and often ruining peoples lives – many of whom end up losing employment and serving jail time for the inability to pay off the fines being assessed for violations.

It makes no matter what party you are in.  Many believe that if the next governor is a democrat the laws will change but there has not been concerted democratic party action on the matter thus far in NJ and in many states it is republicans that have been outspoken and leaders in efforts to change the prehistoric cannabis prohibition laws.  The issue is clearly a bipartisan one and advocates of cannabis legalization and Decarceration will welcome strong action from either side of the aisle.

We will judge the candidates not only on pledges of what they will do in the future but in what they are doing now – does the candidate support the call for a moratorium on cannabis prohibition enforcement in NJ and for dismissal of pending cannabis related charges and vacating of penalties for cannabis prohibition violations?  What role has the candidate played in their current office holding capacity in advancing legalization and a shifting of priorities and resources away from enforcement of cannabis prohibition?

What is your position?  How much of a priority do you see cannabis legalization being?  Assuming legislative support, how quickly would yourr administration bring about legalization?  What is your plan be to bring about legalization?  How will you handle the related issue of Decarceration?  What will you do to stop continued arrests immediately upon taking office?

Our organization and others engaged in this historic struggle to end this repression of quality of life choices made by NJ residents that victimize nobody and for many offer medical relief from what ailments are committed to push the issue of legalization to the forefront.  We will be out and about when the candidates make their rounds in the months ahead, asking questions, holding signs and if need be vocalizing our opposition to your continued repression – some of it racially motivated – of NJ residents – to uphold cannabis prohibition. 

We call upon you to immediately disclose your position and explain how you will:

1.       Start immediately to advocate for legalization and at the same time support the call for a moratorium on arrests and prosecution for alleged violations of NJ’s cannabis prohibition laws.
2.       Enact changes to immediately end cannabis prohibition upon assuming the office of governor.
3.       Provide conviction relief and dismissals for those that have been arrested, are serving prison time or jail time, being held in lieu of bail or assessed fines as well as automatic arrest and conviction record expungement for violation or alleged violations of NJ’s cannabis prohibition laws.

We look forward to your immediate response and to working with you around these matters.

Sincerely,
Bob Witanek
Decarc@DecarcerateNJ.org



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