Quesada and Mahmoud just say yes to pot

Candidates bidding for 32nd District Assembly seats

After a March 25 state senate vote was called off, the push continues for legal, recreational weed in New Jersey.
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After a March 25 state senate vote was called off, the push continues for legal, recreational weed in New Jersey.

As contenders in the June 4 primary for assembly seats in the state’s 32nd district, Roger Quesada and Mahmoud Mahmoud recently took a hard line stance advocating for full legalization of recreational and medicinal marijuana.

They promote the sale of marijuana through investments in businesses for entrepreneurs of color.

The two are vying for assembly seats against incumbents Angelica Jimenez and Pedro Mejia, who are backed by both the Hudson County Democratic Organization and State Senator/North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco.

Quesada and Mahmoud charge that their opponents wavered on full legalization. The two say they were discouraged when a vote to legalize on March 25 went up in smoke.

The March 25 state senate vote on legalizing recreational marijuana was called off after Senate President Steve Sweeney determined he didn’t have the 21 votes he needed for the bill to pass.

Sacco is reportedly open to the idea of legalization, but was at the time hesitant to vote “yes” on recreational use due to the bill’s ramifications concerning public safety and criminal justice. He is also seeking provisions which give municipalities control over where potential dispensaries are located. Several other senators concurred. Sacco said that for other senators, politics could have prevented them from supporting decriminalization, but he was optimistic about a new legalization bill in the near future.

“The marijuana legislation might have to wait to get to lame duck,” Sacco said. “That’s why we often have to wait for certain legislation. There’s some people who won’t vote for it right now because they feel it’s risky to their own careers, who may vote for it once we’re past the election.”

The next state senate election is Nov. 3, 2020.

A call for full legalization

“The year is now 2019, there is now a much broader understanding of this ancient natural plant,” Quesada and Mahmoud said in a joint statement (no pun intended). “Not only do people today know that all those harmful claims made about marijuana were vastly exaggerated, but the racist criminal industrial complex created by its enforcement has left a terrible stain on our country. The Quesada Mahmoud campaign fully supports the legalization of the marijuana plant, both recreational and medical.”

They also said that, whenever possible, remediation is needed for marijuana users who’ve been incarcerated. They support investment for people of color to start marijuana businesses.

According to the FBI, tens of thousands of New Jersey residents are arrested yearly for marijuana possession. According to Quesada and Mahmoud, people of color are arrested for possession at rates staggeringly higher than those for whites. An American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) study suggests that nonwhite marijuana users in the United States are arrested at a rate 3.73 times greater than their white counterparts, despite using the drug at similar rates.

The two candidates also support banning drug tests as a prerequisite for employment and prohibiting employers from inquiring about an applicant’s prior felonies.

“These draconian laws disproportionately affect men of color, and it’s time to ban these laws that perpetuate a cycle of poverty,” the candidates wrote.

The push to legalize recreational marijuana in New Jersey isn’t over, despite the setback on March 25. Many Senate Democrats called for a different legislative framework, but were not necessarily opposed to legalization itself. Newcomers Quesada and Mahmoud want legalization sooner rather than later.

For updates on this and more stories check hudsonreporter.com or follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mike Montemarano can be reached at mikem@hudsonreporter.com.