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Pastor against pot: ‘Big marijuana’ will hurt communities of color

As Gov. Murphy continues to blaze path towards legalization, some are wondering how the law would impact minorities

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NEWARK — Inside Paradise Baptist Church in Newark, Bishop Jethro James mulls New Jersey’s penal system in relation to people of color. He does not support marijuana legalization like Governor Murphy because he believes it will hurt minority communities.

"There needs to be a conversation about the penal system here in New Jersey,” Bishop James said. “African Americans are 17 percent of the population and 65 percent of the prison population.”

Bishop James recently wrote an op-ed piece, further commenting on marijuana legalization to explain why he believes creating a “big marijuana” industry would only bring more drugs into neighborhoods already impacted by drug issues.

“The marijuana and alcohol industries routinely target vulnerable communities as its profit centers. We don't need to add fuel to the fire." He said.

Bishop James adds that pot legalization could impact the ability of people in communities of color to get jobs since employers will continue drug test no matter what.

"Once you start smoking drugs, the law will not preclude employers from mandating you from taking a drug test. You can't work for PSE&G. You definitely won't work for the State of New Jersey," he said.

There are a number of communities in New Jersey that share the bishop's viewpoint when it comes to keeping pot illegal. Garfield recently enacted an ordinance that bans the sale of marijuana in their town limits which means that no dispensary would be built in Garfield if pot is legalized.

But when Governor Murphy talks about legalizing marijuana, he also connects it to changing the Garden State's justice system.

"A stronger and fairer New Jersey embraces criminal justice reform comprehensively. And that includes a process to legalize marijuana," he said.

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