By Senator Ronald L. Rice
This week, “Local Talk” presents the second part of its series looking into recreational marijuana. Here again is State Senator Ron L. Rice.
PART II - THE IMPACT
There are many unanswered questions that mandate answers to the public prior to the legislature making any decision arbitrarily and capriciously to legalize recreational marijuana in this state and particularly in communities of color. In fact, this is one issue that the public must not only be educated about, it is an issue that also must be put on a statewide referendum prior to the legislature acting on any legalization legislation.
Our residents, taxpayers and voters need to know what the negative impact would be on predominantly minority communities, women and babies.
What will the impact be on minority and women intern, apprenticeship and jobs programs?
What are the negative impacts on minority infants and children given all of the environmental health problems created in urban communities?
Why is a racial impact statement not being performed?
Where are the public meetings and conversations with pre-school parents, early childhood parents, kindergarten public schools parents, public school children parents, PTA/PT0 organizations, senior citizens and urban homeowners to inform and discuss with them what we know about the legalization of recreational marijuana in other states and what we know about the potential and foreseeable negative impacts on New Jersey residents and communities, if New Jersey Legislators pass such a law?
Why do legislators want to knowingly create more addicts in order to raise tax dollars for the state budget?
Why do New Jersey Legislators want to create more addicts by legalizing recreational marijuana under the auspices of raising taxes to provide treatment to people who are already addicted? More addicts to help addicts?
Why do we tell our children not to use drugs? Now we tell them it is alright to do drugs and become addicts as long as state government can raise taxes and make money off them and their addiction.
Every urban and inner-city Mayor, Council members, school board members, NAACP Chapter President and members, faith-based and clergy leaders and their parishioners, as well as every county government official should oppose the legalization of recreational marijuana drug.
Based on what we know, urban cities house the majority of black and brown children with the highest asthma rate, highest lead poison rate, highest infant mortality rate, highest rate of homeless families, highest rate of children dropping out of schools and the lowest high school test scores.
New Jersey leads the country in foreclosure rate and urban cities have the highest foreclosure rate in the counties. Neighborhoods are plagued with un-boarded abandoned buildings. Urban hospitals’ emergency rooms are overcrowded and under staffed, driving up the cost of healthcare at Urban Healthcare Institutions.
Bodegas and liquor stores are saturating urban communities. Many of these urban stores located on the neighborhood commercial corridors and inner-city streets are ripping off the people taxpayers are subsidizing. They are cashing poor people checks so the recipients can go and buy drugs. The vendor is keeping in many instances as much as 30-40% of the value of some checks and providing the balance of money to the persons the checks are issued to.
Newark, Paterson and Jersey City are getting local control back of their public schools for the first time in over twenty (20) years. Camden is still under state control with many academic problems that we are not addressing in a meaningful and comprehensive way due to politics.
Some urban cities are finally beginning to see a renaissance because working middle - class families are willing to take a chance in raising their children in the cities where investors are now investing their money and businesses are relocating, such as Newark, Jersey City, Perth Amboy, New Brunswick, etc. Our urban cities are becoming university and college towns.
Knowing all of this, why would black elected officials want to legalize drugs in the communities we represent?
Below for your information are what we know and what our residents do not know about the "Legalization of Marijuana" in other states:
· When states legalize "Recreational Marijuana" we know that the number of people on drugs who never used drugs before increases.
· We know the number of college students using drugs increases.
· We know that more new born babies are born with ""THC" negatively impacting the brain.
· We know that more pregnant women who are breastfeeding babies have "THC" in their breast.
· We know that the number of young people being treated in hospitals emergency rooms with marijuana related illnesses have increased substantially.
· We know that interstate and intercity drug trafficking has increased substantially in Nevada.
· We know that the use of other drugs such a heroin is going up in Nevada.
· We know that opioid users who cannot get methadone treatment are turning to heroin.
· We know that marijuana homicides are increasing.
· We know states like Colorado that legalized recreational marijuana, black people are still arrested three times more for marijuana violations than whites.
· We know that marijuana use increases mental health issues.
· We know that women and kids believe that it is okay to use drugs because it is legal in those states, therefore there is no risk.
· We know that auto accidents have risen significantly in states that legalized recreational marijuana.
· We know that businesses cannot hire local workers because of drugs in the person's system.
· We know that businesses are concerned about liability issues and the impact on such things such as workers compensation.
· We know that there will be many law suits forthcoming by and against family members, businesses, labor unions, insurance companies and local governments.
· We know that organized labor unions are concerned about work place safety, protection of workers’ rights who legally uses marijuana on and off the job. They are worried about increased legal cost to defend their members.
· We know that banks are not lending money to establish marijuana businesses.
· We know that the federal laws are still being enforced.
· We know that the Mexican Cartels have moved into Colorado and Nevada to set up legal growing businesses in order to sell to the black market. We also know Cuban and Russian cartels are operating in states that passed recreational legalization laws as well.
· We know that women working on the farms picking the pulp are being sexual assaulted and abused. There are concerns also that human trafficking is taking place in some of the states where recreational marijuana legalizations laws were passed.
· We know that the Mexican Cartel because they can legally grow marijuana in Colorado and other states and do not have to send it from Mexico are now sending more heroin to the street, thus, there is an increase in heroin use in those states also.
· We know that the black market is growing.
· We know that marijuana retail stores are zoned for and put predominantly in black and brown urban neighborhoods.
· We know that billionaires like George Soros, John Sperling, Peter Lewis, and others fund the legalization of recreational marijuana movement by forming and supporting organizations such as the "Drug Policy Alliance" ACLU, Civil Rights organizations and others to take advantage of black people in particular and others "hue and cry" for social justice and the need for medical use.
· We know that black and brown people cannot compete with the money of wealthy people to get the message and other side of the story out to the taxpayers and voters relating to the real intent of the movement to “Legalize Recreational Marijuana," the harm that legalization is causing children and will cause children of generations not yet born.
· We know that lobbyists are paid a lot of money to get New Jersey Legislators to pass “recreational legalization” legislation in New Jersey without any regards as to the potential negative impact on people of color, communities of color and urban cities in particular.
What do we know about New Jersey presently where recreational marijuana is not legalized?
· We know that more low and moderate income wage earners are paying $1,200 - $1,300 plus dollars rent to live in run-down slum properties in order to provide shelter for families that never use drugs will become homeless.
· We know that New Jersey has one of the highest insurance rates in the United States.
· We know that there are some negative consequences that are foreseeable that must be factor into any decision to legalize.
· Many of us know that the message being articulated to sell the recreational legalization argument to the black community is insulting. The message is black people are arrested and incarcerated three (3) times more than white people for marijuana drug violations but black people who should not be incarcerated will not be set free unless we agree to pass legislation to legalize recreational marijuana; a law that many of us know is going to do more harm to black and brown people, urban communities and our education system. We are told that we have to legalize recreational marijuana to create more addicts in order to get treatment money for people who are already addicted to drugs.
We are told indirectly, that in New Jersey, little black and brown children would have to go to school and go out to play after school in urban communities with recreational marijuana retail commercial stores competing with liquor stores on every block and drug dealers on every corner, churches steps and in what few playgrounds black and brown children have left to play in.
· We are being told by some black leaders' subliminal messages that it is okay for wealthy white people and white Wall Street investors to spend their money to get legislation passed to legalize recreational marijuana that is guaranteed to increase the number of drug users and drug addicts in the predominately black and brown communities, on our college campuses (statewide) and in our public schools, as long as a few black people can make money also.
· We know that it is a contradiction for the Governor and Legislators to publicly talk about, debate, pass legislation and spend taxpayers’ dollars to help increase education opportunities, job training programs and daycare programs with the intent of helping minorities and women in particular and New Jersey residents in general to become employable, while at the same time talk about legalizing recreational marijuana.
· We know that urban and decayed municipalities will be stymied in attracting new businesses to, and keeping businesses in their respective municipality due to the inability to hire workers who cannot pass a drug test. Loss of business revenues will increase the quality of life problems communities are already faced with. It will create a need to increase local property taxes on property owners which in many cases will cause rent increases for renters.
· There are many more foreseeable and potential problems the legalization of “recreational Marijuana would create that must be talked about and taken seriously. Any decision we make as legislators will affect generations of people who are not yet born in New Jersey.
· What we do know is that we cannot afford to get this wrong!
· The shore and suburban communities in New Jersey, who have passed ordinances and resolutions in opposition to legalization, got it right.
· Many of us know that it is time for elected officials representing urban communities in particular, to wake up, do the research, talk to the residents about the potential harm to communities of color if New Jersey passes a law to legalize “Recreational Marijuana” drugs.
Thank you for taking the time to read this correspondence. I am hoping that you will share these concerns with your family members and neighbors.
I am hoping that you stand with those of us who are opposed to having stores operating in our neighborhoods and on our commercial corridors selling marijuana products. As residents we must demand that our local elected officials hold community meeting to discuss these issues and provide answers to the taxpayers, and voters.
The debate cannot be about the money. The debate must be about the impact on our community and people of color in particular.
In closing, I am available to personally come to your district to talk to everyday, hard- working residents, parents, senior citizens, renters and homeowners like you regarding this issue and what we know about the legalization of “Recreational Marijuana” and what we know about communities of color in New Jersey. All you have to do is arrange the meeting and give me a call.
Senator Ronald L. Rice
28th Legislative District
Part I - By Senator Ronald L. Rice
For the next few weeks, “Local Talk” will dig deeper into the recreational marijuana debate. One person who has a strong insight into the matter is our local state senate representative, Ron Rice.
PART I - THE MONEY MOTIVE
Unfortunately, as in the past, wealthy millions and investors have targeted New Jersey as one of the states to push the Governor and the State Legislators to pass a bill to legalize “Recreational Marijuana” drug. Their main target in this state is New Jersey Urban communities and communities of color.
The wealthy investors and their political friends are approaching Black State Representatives, Black Mayors and Black Council members to carry and sell their agenda and message to legalize “Recreational Marijuana” to the residents residing in urban cities. They are spending millions of dollars to lobbyists and big political law firms to convince our colleagues in Trenton to pass a bill to legalize marijuana drugs in New Jersey. They are using the media, organizations such as the ACLU and Drug Policy Alliance to organize support in the minority communities in particular.
The role of the Drug Policy Alliance, ACLU and some Civil Rights organization is to get urban municipalities’ Black Elected Officials to convince residents to support the legalization of “Recreational Marijuana” under the auspices of social justice.
The legalization of “Recreational Marijuana” movement promulgated by the investors is not about “social justice.” The real intent behind the movement is for the big money investors from out of town to make money.
The forums that some legislators, local elected officials and clergy members have been holding in the urban cities basically talk about government getting more tax dollars, and investors getting rich off of businesses that will be set up in the urban cities and communities of color.
The elected officials and the presenters are not telling our childcare providers, preschool parents, public school parents and other Newark residents who are everyday citizens about the negative impact that legalizing recreational marijuana will have on people lives and the quality of life in our communities. They paint Colorado as a model for legalization. The reality is that the states that have passed such laws are now seeing and are faced with many new problems. Unfortunately, they do not know how to fix them now.
New Jersey is not Colorado! The demographics amongst other things are different. It is important to note that New Jersey is the fourth smallest state by area. It is the 11th most populous with 9 million people and the most densely populated state in the country.
Stores in Colorado sell everything marijuana, from cakes, gummies, candies to marijuana lip stick, marijuana sex oils and other such products.
I do not recall the Governor or our colleagues in the legislature sharing this information with us or the public we represent. It has meaning and must be evaluated for its impact on New Jersey communities, our residents and visitors.
Under the auspices of social justice the "End Game" to the Legalization of "Recreational Marijuana" is the poor get poorer and the rich get richer. More tax dollars for government regardless of the harm done to real people and communities!
Those who are pushing hard and spending a lot of money to get a recreational marijuana bill passed in New Jersey are doing so under the auspices of social justice for black and brown people in particular. This is clearly a distortion of the real intent of the push for legalization of recreational marijuana. The real intent is to make money at the expense of New Jersey taxpayers, voters, and predominantly black and brown people, urban municipalities and urban bordered communities.
Rightfully so, elected officials representing the suburbs and shore towns are saying “NO” to legalizing “Recreational Marijuana” because they are aware of the many problems it would bring to their suburban towns and beach communities. Many of the local elected officials representing the predominantly white communities have passed ordinance and resolutions opposing it in their cities. Others are work on doing the same.
The residents in Newark and the public in general whom I speak to, do not know the difference between legalizing recreational marijuana and the legalization of medical marijuana.
When asked, urban dwellers do not know that retail commercial stores will be placed in their communities and neighborhoods on the same commercial corridors that presently house, liquor stores, bodegas, we buy gold and antiques stores, walk-in Chinese fast food and Crown chicken fast food stores with bullet proof caged windows serving the patrons, etc. These are the locations near our public schools, churches and where the homeless population, drug dealers, and gang members live and operate presently.
Senator Scutari, the Governor, the big money people lobbying legislators, some civil rights leaders, and some faith-based leaders are not taking into consideration, nor are they telling the public all that we know about the legalization of recreational marijuana in other states and what we know about New Jersey where recreational marijuana is not legal.
Our series will continue next week, and will tackle the deeper impact of recreational marijuana in the community.