After a monumental start to the week with the signing of New Jersey’s historic cannabis bills, we are tremendously disappointed to learn that there is only one Black appointee on the state Cannabis Commission. With today’s announcement the Governor, the Senate President and the Speaker have failed Black New Jerseyans. They blatantly chose to construct a commission that fails to accurately reflect the communities most devastated by the war on drugs. In fact, it is a commission made up of mostly white people.

We reiterate time and time again that the war on drugs declared in 1971 by President Nixon was an intentional act to police and punish Black communities and progressive activists. In the 50 years since Nixon’s declaration, communities of color have felt the devastating impact of racially biased drug law enforcement, mass incarceration, and reductions in public safety and community health. Today 1 in 3 Black men have been in prison, on probation, or on parole, primarily due to racially unjust drug laws. This is why representation is critical. The communities torn apart by the drug war must be the leaders in forming the future of cannabis regulation in New Jersey.

New Jersey is guilty of promoting these unjust policies. New Jersey’s drug laws are particularly punitive, and created some of the highest racial disparities and biggest racial wealth gaps in the nation. In 2016, the state invested more than $670 million to enforce the war on drugs, despite the racial inequities it has fueled.

We have a crucial opportunity to promote equity for marginalized people targeted by New Jersey’s racially unjust drug laws. Do not let this opportunity pass us by. At minimum, there should be a Black man appointee in addition to the Black woman already appointed to the commission. Governor Murphy, Speaker Coughlin, and Senator Sweeney – we urge you to make an expeditious adjustment to the board. Our communities deserve better.

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