Mount Zion Baptist Church of Pleasantville, Atlantic City and Mainland-Pleasantville NAACP branches, the Atlantic County Coalition for a Safe Community and the Drug Policy Alliance Host Forum on Marijuana Legalization and Racial Justice

Press Release April 23, 2018
Media Contact

Tony Newman 646-335-5384
Roseanne Scotti 609-610-8243

Pleasantville, NJ—On Wednesday, April 25th, the Mount Zion Baptist Church of Pleasantville, Atlantic City and Mainland-Pleasantville NAACP branches, the Atlantic County Coalition for a Safe Community and the Drug Policy Alliance will host, “Set the Captive Free: Marijuana, Morality & Money,” at 7:00 pm at Mount Zion Baptist Church (353 S. New Road, Pleasantville, NJ 08232).

As the political debate around marijuana legalization heats up in New Jersey, the forum will focus why legislation to legalize marijuana in New Jersey must be fair and equitable and must repair past harms to communities of color.

“America’s decades-long war on drugs—a facade for a war on nonwhite and poor communities—has cost New Jersey hundreds of thousands of working people and dozens of millions of taxpayer dollars.  Marijuana prohibition, which originated and remains a racialized issue, guaranteed the disintegration of people’s lives, termination of their employment, discontinuation of their housing or court-ordered dislocation of children,” said Pastor Willie Dwayne Francois III, of Mount Zion Baptist Church of Pleasantville. He continued “If cannabis legalization will become the law of New Jersey, we raise a moral imperative to the New Jersey legislatures to release persons with marijuana-related convictions, expunge their records and create economic opportunities that repair the harm. The future of democracy depends on the thorough practice of restorative justice for victims of failed draconian drug policies.”

Atlantic City Councilman Kaleem Shabazz, president of the Atlantic City NAACP said, “The question of marijuana legislation is pregnant with a myriad of issues impacting communities of color in New Jersey. If marijuana is to be legalized, we must discus with clear analysis of social justice reform, criminal justice disparities in arrests and incarceration, redress of persons already sentenced. Without addressing and repairing the above concerns, the efforts to legalize will shortchange those most affected by the “war on drugs” and negative social conditions across the state in communities of color. We must stay focused on question of social justice, equity and reform.”

Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, agrees, “Until recently, with the passage of Proposition 64 in California, marijuana legalization initiatives have not gone far enough to repair the harms of marijuana prohibition. What we’ve seen in California is what we want to replicate here in New Jersey. Legalization legislation in New Jersey must include automatic and retroactive expungement and resentencing, meaningful access to the marijuana industry for people of color, including those with prior convictions, and investment of the tax revenue generated into those communities most harmed by marijuana prohibition.”

The forum will be facilitated by Kaleem Shabazz. Panelists include:

Mount Zion Baptist Church is a historic church in Pleasantville, New Jersey. Mount Zion is a revolutionary family of faith, imagination and compassion, created by God to live lives of wholeness and authenticity, called by God to embody the mind and ministry of Jesus, and commanded by God to liberate the world through love for all. The Atlantic City and Mainland-Pleasantville NAACP branches work to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination.  The Atlantic County Coalition for a Safe Community is a body of community members and organizations dedicated to improving and empowering residents to sustain safe communities in Atlantic City and Pleasantville.  The New Solutions Campaign of the Drug Policy Alliance has advocated for criminal justice reforms in New Jersey for nearly a decade. Fair and equitable marijuana legalization is the next initiative in its campaign to reform New Jersey’s broken criminal justice system. 

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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