You are here
Home > News > New Jersey Gives Licensing Priority to Convicted Offenders |

New Jersey Gives Licensing Priority to Convicted Offenders |

New Jersey has made headlines for their policy of prior convictions regarding cannabis when it comes down to legalization. 

This state has gone one further by giving preference to people with criminal records. 

A video from VOA News, Jon Dockery and Tahir John, long-time friends, were both arrested for marijuana possession multiple times. They will now be among the first to be allowed to legally sell marijuana in this state, as a result of the new law. 

The program was set up by New Jersey’s cannabis regulatory commission, and it also creates priority status for other folks, including minority-, woman-, disabled-, and veteran-owned businesses certified as such by the New Jersey Department of the Treasury, and those who have businesses owned by folks located in an impact zone, a low-income area more impacted by the War on Drugs.

There is also the issue of social equity. It includes those who reside in economically-disadvantaged areas and people who have not been convicted of cannabis offenses. 

“Social equity businesses, diversely owned businesses, and impact zone businesses will be prioritized in the licensure process so that their applications are reviewed before other applicants—regardless of when they apply,” the state’s website explains. “Applications from entities that meet criteria for more than one priority status will be reviewed, scored, and approved in accordance with the status of highest priority.” 

Johnson and Dockery were both convicted of cannabis offenses prior to being granted one of the eleven priority licenses. Each man has been arrested for marijuana possession multiple times. 

“We’ve been arrested for cannabis, and now we have a chance to share in the market and the wealth being created here,” Dockery says regarding their second chance and their new foray into the industry. 

According to the ACLU Blacks are four times more likely than Whites to be charged with cannabis sale, possession, or use. Many states now take this into consideration when regulating laws. 

Wesley McWhite of the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission says in the video, “We wanted to make sure that we are addressing the negative social impact of cannabis prohibition, so it was important to make sure that those who have the most barriers have an easier time getting licenses and into the industry.”

This rule is not for everyone. A police organization opposed this allowance, it’s not surprising. Patrick Phelan of the New York Association of Chiefs of Police feels that doing this is “rewarding if not encouraging criminal activity.”

However, the argument doesn’t take into account the fact that many people would rather not have been convicted of a serious crime in relation to cannabis.  

New Jersey’s closest neighbor, New York, has set aside a social equity fund of $20 million for similar reasons, hoping to rebuild an industry in the image of the folks who were the most impacted. 

This will not completely remove the effects of the War on Drugs New Jersey but it is an important step in filling this industry with people who know the business and have been affected by illegal marijuana in the past.