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    New Jersey Lawmaker Calls for Immediate Suspension of All Minor Marijuana Arrests

    New Jersey Lawmaker Calls for Immediate Suspension of All Minor Marijuana Arrests

    Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-20th Dist.) is calling for a suspension of all marijuana arrests for petty possession as the state is expected to pass a ballot question legalizing recreational marijuana. Credits: TAPinto File Photo

    ELIZABETH, NJ – With strong statewide expectation that voters will approve a ballot question tonight that legalizes recreational marijuana, Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-20th Dist.) is calling today for a suspension of all marijuana arrests for petty possession.

    Moreover, Holley said, all current cases for marijuana possession should be dismissed in municipal courts, freeing up any backlog in cases. One particular case, he noted, is taking place in Beach Haven, where the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office has argued favorably before an appellate court to reinstate dismissed municipal court charges against two college students arrested for smoking pot in the beach last August.

    “It is more obvious than ever that New Jerseyans want our lawmakers to focus on serious crimes that affect the safety and welfare of the people,” Holley said. “As we will quickly see at the ballot box, there is no patience anymore for prosecuting people caught smoking and possessing marijuana. It will be a legal, regulated recreational drug, similar to a glass of wine. There is no longer a need for our courts to deal with such petty offenses.”


    Holley said legislation needs to be quickly drafted and approved that will modify the state’s marijuana laws, with the expectation of tonight’s vote. While the legislative process can take weeks to move from introduction to being finalized, it is important that local law enforcement recognize the mandate of voters and refrain from charges, all of which will likely be dismissed.

    Moreover, Holley is calling for the passage of swift legislation – of which he would sponsor – that will jumpstart the cannabis industry while making it easier for New Jersey-based residents to own and operate a cannabis business.

    Holley said it is vital that this industry benefit the “mom and pops” in towns across the state, as opposed to large, out-of-state conglomerates who will profit from the business, yet give proportionately little back to the state. He points to a recent Rutgers-Eagleton poll, which reports that 64% of New Jerseyans would support a marijuana dispensary in their town.

    Holley anticipates a full roll-out of thousands of dispensaries in the state, with tax benefits and other incentives offered to minority, veteran and women owners.  That would be compared with the current number of 2,774 pharmacies, 1,800 liquor stores and 7,500 bars/restaurants in the state.

    According to cannabis industry leaders, New Jersey has the potential to create a cannabis industry that will generate an annual $6 billion economic impact (direct sales, taxes, ancillary market, and multiplier effect) on an economy in desperate need of jobs and the businesses that creates them.


    “We need to focus on how responsibly and quickly we can grow the cannabis industry and the potential annual economic impact it can bring New Jersey,” Holley said. “Considering that voters will be approving legalization, and considering we are living through an economic crisis of historic proportions, it is in the best of interests of New Jersey residents to create a large, responsible, robust, and inclusive industry as quickly as possible.”

    It all begins, the assemblyman said, by ordering law enforcement officials to stop arresting residents for marijuana possession, and clearing the courts of such cases.

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    Wimberly, Johnson & Holley Bill to Ensure Diversity Among NJ Law Enforcement Now Law

    To ensure law enforcement agencies reflect the diversity of the communities they serve, legislation requiring all law enforcement agencies in New Jersey to establish minority recruitment and selection programs was signed into law on Monday.

    The law (formerly bill A-2394) will further require annual reporting on recruitment, retention and promotion of officers providing information specific to age, gender, race and ethnicity. This information will be published in a yearly report and made available online by the Attorney General.

    Sponsors of the bill, Assembly Democrats Benjie E. Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic), Gordon M. Johnson (D-Bergen) and Jamel C. Holley (D-Union), issued the following joint statement:

    “The Black community in America is in pain and reeling in the wake of senseless police-perpetrated violence. A breakdown of trust between communities of color and police in America is evident.

    “We must start with being intentional about the way our law enforcement agencies mirror the evolving racial diversity of the communities they protect and serve. Being more deliberate in hiring minorities will make our police departments more inclusive and ultimately translate into better relationships with communities.

    “It all comes down to breaking cycles of bias. In building the mechanisms to tackle underrepresentation and keep agencies accountable to greater diversity, we have an opportunity to do just that.”

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    Holley Introduces Bill to Create State Division on Violence Prevention and Intervention

    Advocates Support Legislation to Help County Efforts with Violence Prevention

    Legislation establishing a Division on Violence Prevention and Intervention was introduced recently by Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Union).

    The bill (A-4563) would create a Division on Violence Prevention and Intervention within the Department of Law and Public Safety. The division would help to ensure that each county provides access to well-coordinated violence prevention resources to residents.

    “We can do more to help counties reduce all forms of violence in their communities with access to the right resources,” said Holley (D-Union). “Centralizing these resources in one division with a charge that focuses only on violence reduction and prevention will help.”

    Recent reports say New Jersey has seen a surge in fatal shootings this year, 19 percent. Domestic violence cases in New Jersey have been predicted to rise under the restraints of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “We are all concerned about the recent news of increased shootings in the state. We also need to continue to worry about helping families in domestic violence situations receive the help they need,” continued Holley. “Designating one person to lead the charge to help counties identify their needs and the best programs to assist them is critical to reducing violence throughout the state.”

    “Violence in America is a public health crisis. This legislation will establish an ongoing focus on methods to prevent violence. It’s a welcome initiative to improve the quality of life of all New Jersey residents,” said Former Senator Raymond Lesniak for the Lesniak Institute for American Leadership.

    “Finally this bill comes at the right time. Violence continues to destroy lives and disrupt communities. Assemblyman Holley’s courageous efforts will help to prevent gun violence, domestic violence, and police brutality such as the incident that led to the death of George Floyd,” said Salaam Ismail, Director National United Youth Council Inc.

    Under the bill, the division would be led by a Director of Violence Prevention and Intervention, who would be appointed by the Attorney General. The director is authorized under the bill to apply for and accept on behalf of the State any grants from the Federal Government or agency, or from any foundation, corporation, association or person, for any of the purposes of the division.

    The bill would require the county prosecutor in each county to appoint or designate a violence prevention and intervention coordinator, who not an employee of the county prosecutor’s office.

    Among the program coordinator’s duties are creating a directory of existing violence prevention services and activities in the county; recommending services to be funded by local governing bodies; and developing a network of volunteers and mentors within the community who can address issues such as youth violence and suicide prevention.

    This measure implements one of the recommendations of New Jersey’s independent Study Commission on Violence in its report issued in October 2015.

    The legislation is positioned for committee referral and review by the Assembly Speaker.


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    Holley Calls for Direct Funding to New Jersey Families for Child Care and Tutoring


    TRENTON - When the COVID-19 pandemic rocked New Jersey in mid-March and sent home 1.4 million school children for the rest of the 2019-20 school year, parents were scrambling to provide at-home child care and academic instruction as the economy collapsed.

    With Wednesday’s announcement from Gov. Phil Murphy allowing school districts unable to provide a safe learning environment to offer remote learning, many parents are facing the same dilemma: To stay home with their children or go to work.

    Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-20thDist.) said New Jersey families cannot afford any more mandated at-home learning and child care. That is why he is proposing legislation this afternoon that would give working families grants for tutoring and child care services, funded through the federal CARES Act, known as the “New Jersey Family Child Care and Tutoring Relief Act.”

    If federal aid should fall short, Holley is proposing state tax credits in 2021 to make up the difference. The program would be in place through June 30, 2021, as per the proposed legislation, to be formally introduced by the end of the week.

    “Families are crying out for help; this Executive Order for remote learning spells disaster for people who need to return to work and creates an additional burden on all families,” Holley said. “There needs to be financial support that can provide children with quality care and tutoring assistance, serving as a safety net.

    When the public schools closed in mid-March, Holley said, New Jersey families met an immediate crisis on two fronts.  Parents needed to stay at home to care for their children. Meanwhile, as school districts scrambled to develop virtual curricula, many children fell through the cracks, unable to learn via remote learning.

    “That third-grade student who abruptly was forced into remote learning in March did not learn what he or she needed to learn in third grade,” Holley said. “Now, it is approaching fall, and that student is beginning fourth grade. If he or she couldn’t learn remotely as a third grader, how is he or she going to suddenly learn fourth grade material? That is why our families our desperate for tutorial services. Our kids need to catch up. Keeping them home, without support, creates a long-term psychological and academic problem.”

    The proposed bill would:

    • Provide families with financial support to pay for childcare and tutoring service costs for school aged children due to remote learning in the 2020-21 school year. 
    • The state Department of Human Services (DHS) will develop an application for families to submit information. The department shall process applications and distribute grant funds in an efficient and expedient manner. 
    • Grant amounts shall be determined based upon the availability of federal funding. The Division of Taxation in the Department of the Treasury, in consultation with the DHS, shall establish a tax credit against the state tax.

    “The state Legislature needs to intervene with this bill, ensuring our families have a fighting chance for success.” Holley added.

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    As cities throughout the state move to recognize Juneteenth as a day of remembrance and reflection in their communities, Assembly Democrats Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, Jamel Holley, and Benjie Wimberly sponsor legislation to have the historical commemoration designated as a state and public holiday in New Jersey.

    The bill (A-4315) would designate the third Friday in June in each year as Juneteenth Day, which commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas to inform enslaved Africans of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and their freedom.  The announcement from General Granger led to celebration and jubilation, which has continued each year in various forms throughout the United States for over 150 years.

    The sponsors—Assemblywoman Reynolds-Jackson (D-Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon), and Assemblymen Holley (D-Union) and Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic)— issued the following statement on the legislation:

    “We’re at another set of crossroads in this country’s history—just as we were in 1863— where we can decide to move humanity forward by once again acknowledging the wrongs committed against African Americans and taking bold action to correct them.

        “A visual illustration of the impact of centuries of systematic and institutionalized racism has our country reeling over the question, “Why?” Why does this continue to persist in our communities today?

        “Juneteenth was a defining moment in American History, claiming the beginning of African American independence in this country. It is time for the commemoration of a pivotal moment in history to become an official state holiday, underscoring its importance to our communities and giving time for reflection on how far we have come and have to go to achieve equality and justice for all.”

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    In the wake of the death of George Floyd, the use of chokeholds during the police apprehension of an individual has come under wide criticism in many states across the nation.

    The full Assembly approved several measures aimed at social justice reform in New Jersey. Among the bills, a measure (A-4263) that would clarify that any law enforcement officer who knowingly chokes another person is engaging in use of deadly force. It passed the full Assembly 72-1-5.

    Assembly members Shavonda Sumter, Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, Benjie Wimberly and Jamel Holley are prime sponsors of the legislation.

    “The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis through a lethal knee involved chokehold and deaths of men and women in law enforcement custody has caused states to reassess policies surrounding use of police force,” said Sumter (D-Bergen, Passaic). “New Jersey law enforcement does not train for the use of chokeholds in the police academy. However, it is a tactical move that may be used to secure an individual. With this legislation, we define these holds in New Jersey as use of deadly force.”

    “With this legislation, New Jersey takes a stand against the use of excessive police force,” said Reynolds-Jackson (D-mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon). “We have seen what can happen countless times with countless lives lost over the years. This is the step we must take to ensure it does not happen here in New Jersey.”

    The legislation amends N.J.S.2C:3-11 to clarify that the use of a chokehold by a law enforcement officer constitutes deadly force.

    “The deaths of Eric Garner and George Floyd have placed a spotlight on police use of force as well as the many others who have lost their lives as a result of these practices,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic). “The designation of a chokehold as a deadly force is necessary to discourage the use of choking as a way to subdue a person. Our law enforcement is trained in many other ways to deescalate a situation without using this one.”

    “We’re calling for change in the way African Americans and others are treated in this country during police interactions,” said Holley (D-Union). “Far too many instances have occurred and far too many lives have been lost due to the misuse of excessive force in policing. There is a problem with the use of the chokehold as a tactic that must be addressed.”

    Under the bill, a law enforcement officer uses deadly force if he knowingly places pressure on the throat, windpipe, or carotid artery of another person, thereby hindering or preventing the ability to breath, or interfering with the flow of blood from the heart to the brain.

    Current law provides that use of deadly force by a law enforcement officer is only justified if necessary to protect the officer or another person from death or serious bodily injury, to arrest or prevent the escape of a violent criminal, or to prevent the commission of a violent crime.  The bill provides that a law enforcement officer is not justified in choking another person unless confronted with one of these dangerous situations.

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    Holley Calls for Commission to Study 5G Safety

    Asm Holley Head Shot.jpg
    Assemblyman Jamel Holley is expressing concern about 5G safety. Credits: Office of Assemblyman Jamel Holley

    TRENTON - Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-20thDist.) is calling for the creation of a state commission to study the many unknown health effects of the next generation of wireless technologies, which are steadily expanding throughout  New Jersey.

    The wireless industry is engaged in the large scale deployment of 5G microwave antennas to dramatically enhance the nation’s broadband infrastructure.  Such technology is welcomed, as it eliminates rural internet disparities, enables new forms of automation, and promotes advancements in telemedicine.

    However, there are deep concerns about potential health effects within New Jersey communities, Assemblyman Holley said. 5G technology uses existing technology and new applications of microwave radiation to transmit large amounts of data. It requires closer proximity to network users, resulting in dense deployment of antennas near schools, residences, and businesses throughout New Jersey.


    “My constituents have expressed some deep concerns about the potential health impacts of these antennas, especially in high-density communities like Elizabeth and Union Township,” Assemblyman Holley said. “We need to analyze the involuntary exposure of citizens to 5G technology, especially without their express knowledge or consent of the potential health impacts.”

    Assemblyman Holley noted the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has not yet conducted long-term testing of 5G technology, and has not updated its wireless radiation human exposure guidelines since 1996.

    “Wireless industry leaders have admitted that safety tests have not yet been conducted to determine any possible adverse health effects from the constant exposure to higher frequency wireless radiation,” the assemblyman said. “Meanwhile, there’s a significant body of published, peer-reviewed, independent scientific studies that link exposure to wireless radiation with serious biological harm and increased risk of cancer, reproductive problems, and neurological impairments.”

    Assemblyman Holley said the mounting research casts doubt on the theory that low-level exposure to radio-frequency microwave radiation is harmless. There are more than 250 medical and public health professionals who have signed a joint statement urging government officials to consider the latest science on microwave radiation and human health, especially the latest science concerning abnormal brain development in unborn children, Holley said.

    “I am not taking a position on 5G until I have more information,” the assemblyman said. “My concern is the overall body of evidence concerning the potential health impacts of wireless radio wave radiation. It is inconclusive and lacking in high-quality research. We need further study and consideration to help shape appropriate regulatory policies that best protect New Jerseyans.”

    Assemblyman Holley is calling for the “New Jersey Commission on 5G Health Effects,” which would study the environmental and health effects of 5G wireless technologies, with a focus on the potential health risks that these technologies pose to vulnerable populations.

    The assemblyman suggests the commission comprise 11 members. That includes two members of the General Assembly, two members of the State Senate, one member of the cellphone and wireless technology industry, one member representing the business community, one member of the public with expertise in the biological effects of wireless radiation, the Attorney General (or his appointee), the Commissioner of Health (or her designee), one member of the State Medical Society, and one member representing Rutgers University who is knowledgeable about wireless radiation.

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    Bill to Institute Minority Recruitment, Establish Annual Reporting

    To ensure law enforcement agencies in New Jersey reflect the diversity of the communities they serve, the Assembly Community Development and Affairs Committee cleared a measure Monday to require all law enforcement agencies in New Jersey to establish minority recruitment and selection programs.

    The bill (A-2394) would further require annual reporting on recruitment, retention and promotion of officers providing information specific to age, gender, race and ethnicity. This information would be published in a yearly report and made available online by the Attorney General.

    Sponsors of the bill, Assembly Democrats Benjie E. Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic), Gordon M. Johnson (D-Bergen) and Jamel C. Holley (D-Union), issued the following joint statement:

    “The Black community in America is in pain and reeling in the wake of senseless police-perpetrated violence. A breakdown of trust between communities of color and police in America is evident.

    “We must start with being intentional about the way our law enforcement agencies mirror the evolving racial diversity of the communities they protect and serve. Being more deliberate in hiring minorities will make our police departments more inclusive and ultimately translate into better relationships with communities.

    “It all comes down to breaking cycles of bias. In building the mechanisms to tackle underrepresentation and keep agencies accountable to greater diversity, we have an opportunity to do just that.”

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    Eric Garner’s mom at N.J. protest: ‘There are so many stolen lives.’

    Eric Garner's mother speaks at N.J. police brutality protest following the death of George Floyd

    For Gwen Carr, seeing the nationwide protests over George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police feels like deja vu.

    The 46-year-old Floyd’s s final words— “I can’t breath”— were the same as her own son, Eric Garner, who died after being wrestled to the ground in a chokehold by a white New York police officer in 2014, on suspicion of selling cigarettes. A grand jury voted to not indict the officer, inspiring protests in major cities across the country.

    “It’s like deja vu all over again. But it’s something that’s necessary. The marches are to bring awareness, and once we bring awareness, now we have to see people stay on the forefront. We have to make America pay attention to us,” Carr said before giving a speech at a protest against police brutality in Roselle.

    “I’m here today to commemorate all the stolen lives. There are so many stolen lives we don’t even know," she said.

    Pressure on leaders for police reform must continue, Carr told a crowd of hundreds gathered at Warinanco Park. And she’s no stranger to fighting for change.

    Protesters in Roselle

    Protesters in Roselle rally against police brutality on Sunday, June 14, 2020.Natalie Paterson

    After her son’s death, Carr began advocating for the “Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act" to make it a felony in New York for an officer to engage in a chokehold - except in situations where they are protecting their own life. Gov. Andrew Cuomo publicly signed the bill into law on Friday.

    “It’s a step in the right direction. That’s why I stay active. That’s why I stay on top of what’s going on... A lot of the time, change comes slow,” said Carr, whose son is buried nearby in a Linden cemetery.

    She now wants to see the same action in other states and on the federal level.

    In New Jersey, Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-20) said he and Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly (D-35) are both sponsoring a series of bills being introduced in the coming weeks in the state legislature, including an anti-chokehold act similar to New York’s.

    “In order for us to start breaking away at these barriers, legislative action is going to have to take place,” Holley said.

    “I’m pleased to see (New Jersey is) following New York’s lead,” Carr said.

    Yusuf Boriqua

    Yusuf Boriqua, of Elizabeth, holds signs at a protest against police brutality in Roselle on June 14, 2020.Natalie Paterson

    Protesters carrying signs gathered at a field in the park Sunday, listening to a line-up of speakers for about an hour before honoring those killed by officers. Organizers read aloud the names of dozens of police brutality victims, and released a black balloon for each name.

    One protester, Yusuf Boriqua, of Elizabeth, stood alongside others holding a sign reading “End racist policing" and wearing a mask with the words “I can’t breathe."

    The 44-year-old said he moved to New Jersey about 26 years ago, and has faced racial profiling from police since he was younger and while growing up in the Bronx. He pointed to a scar on his eyelid, which he said is from being pistol-whipped by a police officer at 12-years-old.

    “You become desensitized to it," he said. “You can’t escape it anywhere you go... When you walk down the street and a police car rides past you, you can’t look them in the eye because that gives them a reason to stop you. So you’re walking nervous. All you can do is keep walking and hope they don’t bother you.”

    Carr said people shouldn’t become discouraged if change isn’t immediate.

    None of the responding officers involved in Garner’s death were charged, and a grand jury declined to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who was filmed putting Garner in a chokehold. Pantaleo was fired from the department, but Carr is still calling on the other responding officers to be disciplined too.

    “We have to stay on the battlefield," she said. "I’m still fighting for our grandchildren, I’m still fighting for the unborn, because they cannot keep killing our children. It does seem like deja vu, but we have to do this as many times as necessary.”

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    Rioting in Minneapolis following the death of George Floyd

    Rioting and looting in Minneapolis. Bill is joined by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and NJ Assemblyman Jamel Holley for a conversation about the death of George Floyd.

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