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Ricky Stephens

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  • published Holley Wants Answers in What's New 2021-04-30 12:02:33 -0400

    Jamel Holley Wants Answers After Loved One's Casket Found Unearthed, Open

    A heartbroken family from New Jersey who recently said goodbye to a loved one is now grappling with even more emotional pain.

    Paula Smith died from COVID-19 at just 60 years old, and her family turned her final farewell into a celebration of life.

    On April 21, they watched her casket lowered into the ground at Evergreen Cemetery in Hillside. But over the weekend, they found it unearthed -- and open.

    Read more

  • published Facts Matter in What's New 2021-04-28 18:15:08 -0400

  • LD20 Flashpoint: Holley Announces Running Mates

    Holley and his team in LD20.

    A candidate for the state senate, Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-20) selected his two running mates for the June 8 primary election.

    Read more

  • Johnson, Mukherji & Holley Bill Providing Tax Exemption for Fuel Cell Devices, Systems & Related Products, Services Passes Committee

    Aiming to encourage the use of fuel cell devices that produce clean energy, three Assembly Democrats sponsor a bill that would exempt fuel cell devices and systems – as well as other related products and services – from sales and use taxes.

    Read more

  • Holley Outraged over Party Decision to Abandon Ally Staten in Union Bust-up

    Andrea Staten

    In anticipation of his Roselle ally, Union County Commissioner Andrea Staten, losing the Democratic Party line, Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-20) criticized Democratic Party leadership, specifically Union County Democratic Committee Chairman Nick Scutari, for going in another direction.

    Holley was livid when he received the news.

    “On March 1st, we are going to exclude a black woman,” said the assemblyman, who’s running for the state senate seat off the line against Senator Joe Cryan (D-20).

    Staten is apparently a casualty of that collision in the first significant sign of the district senate contest spilling into another corner of the county.

    “It’s disgusting,” said Holley. “Nick Scutari should be ashamed of himself, and this will not end well. He should reconsider it because there will be a long-term price to pay. Every woman on that freeholder board should stand up for their sister and the women of this state stand up for this lady, who has a heart of gold and served in local office and on the planning board in Roselle before getting elected to the [commissioners’] board three years ago.

    “This is what you get with good ol’ boys in the backroom,” he added. “These are the types of things that take place. This is one more reason why I’m ruing – to take away these barriers and these plantation politics from Union County.” Holley said the organization has also denied positions of influence on the commissioner board.

    A source with knowledge of the deal to get rid of Staten said the organization is giving Rahway Councilman James Baker a hard look. A second source said it’s a done deal for Baker.

    A local ally of Holley, Staten in June of 2014 was appointed to serve as Third Ward Councilwoman of the Borough of Roselle, filling the unexpired term of the late Councilman Randy T. Sandifer. She was later elected to serve a full three-year term on the Borough Council. Staten served as committee member for the Human Resources and Finance Department, Committee Chair of the Department of Recreation, and a Class Ill Commissioner on the Roselle Planning Board.

    She is currently a member of the Union County Democratic Women’s Club. In November 2018, Andrea was elected to the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders (now the Commissioners) to serve a three-year term.

  • Jamel Lauds Legalization of Marijuana in New Jersey


    New Jersey lawmakers finalized the legalization of marijuana this morning, which will end the countless arrests each year in our most struggling communities.

    This bill signing followed the will of the voters of New Jersey, who have resoundingly voiced their support for recreational marijuana, projected to generate millions of dollars in new revenue for state coffers each year. 

    I am pleased that my colleagues have recognized the critical component of social justice in adopting legalization bills, ensuring that juveniles in our poorest communities are no longer unfairly targeted with arrest and prosecution. I look forward to the swift enactment of this legislation that New Jersey has been waiting months to see happen.

    Today’s landmark bill signing finally puts an end to antiquated, ineffective, broken anti-drug law.  It is being replaced with a new business stream for New Jerseyans, based on a smart, sustainable and scalable cannabis market.

    Yours, for the 20th Legislative District,


  • Jamel Urges Residents to Support Make Our Schools Safe

    Three years ago, 14 students and three educators were senselessly and brutally murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas School in Parkland, Florida.

    Lori Alhadeff, who has become a very personal friend of mine, lost her daughter Aylissa. Aylissa grew up in NJ and later moved to Florida.

    As we all witnessed this tragic Valentine's Day story, Lori never stopped advocating for our children's school safety.

    As a result of Lori's efforts, we now have a law named after Aylissa. Aylissa's Law provides schools across the state with the necessary dollars to secure and keep our schools safe to help prevent these incidents from happening again.

    As the primary sponsor of the law, it was one of the best pieces of legislation I've worked on because I admired the tenacity and drive of Lori and others that had the continued willingness to protect other children.

    I humbly ask that you support Make Our Schools Safe and purchase merchandise to help Lori and others to pass similar laws across the United States. To learn more or purchase, click here.

  • Jamel Leads the Charge for Fairer Auto Insurance Rates in New Jersey

    Jamel is a prime sponsor on a bill designed to finally put an end to auto insurance rates hinging on a driver’s level of education, credit score and employment.

    “I have been saying it for years: it is unfair that auto insurers are discriminating against lower-income drivers in New Jersey,” Jamel said. “There is now support in both houses of the Legislature to finally put a stop to it.”

    The proposed legislation (A-1657), co-sponsored by Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-20th Dist), would finally force insurance companies to establish rates based solely on a driver’s driving habits and not his or her socioeconomic status.

    According to, Consumer Reports reports that credit score can play a bigger role in determining insurance premiums than almost any other single factor. A New Jersey driver with a clean driving record but poor credit may be forced to pay as much as $1,700 a year more for insurance than a driver with a similar driving history but excellent credit.

    “That is like having a couple of tickets on your record,” Jamel said. “It is punishment for being less fortunate than others. Why are the people who are most struggling in New Jersey subsidizing the rich people who live in the right zip codes? When are we putting an end to it? To me, the time is now.”

    Jamel introduced the bill with other primary sponsors on January 14. It is now awaiting a hearing in the state Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee.

    Other prime sponsors: Sen. Nia Gill, Sen. Teresa Ruiz, Sen. Nilsa Cruz-Perez, Sen. Nellie Pou, Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo and Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson.

  • ADL and NJ NAACP Sign Joint Agreement to Collaborate in the Fight Against Extremism, White Supremacy, and Antisemitism




    Contact:  Alana Burman ([email protected])

                    Marcus Sibley ([email protected])

    Click Here for the Full Release


    ADL and NJ NAACP Sign Joint Agreement to Collaborate in the Fight Against Extremism, White Supremacy, and Antisemitism


    New Jersey, February 3, 2021 …ADL NY/NJ Region (the Anti-Defamation League) and the New Jersey Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NJ NAACP) today signed an agreement to expand efforts to collectively combat discrimination, bigotry, bullying and hate crimes in New Jersey.

    The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between ADL NY/NJ and NJ NAACP commences the second phase of a multi-year partnership working to fight back against the rising tide of hate crimes and discrimination facing marginalized communities in this state.

    The agreement was signed today by Richard Smith, President of NJ NAACP, and Scott Richman, ADL’s NY/NJ Regional Director.

    “We will fight racism wherever it rears its ugly head and we will call out anti-Semitism where we see it. We will not allow anyone or anything to drive a wedge between our communities. Over the long haul of the years, we both have proven that we are too strong for that,” NJ NAACP President Richard Smith stated. “Today we re-embrace the spirit of oneness and leave here committed, like never before, to walk, march and fight arm-in-arm as one. We agree that coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress and working together is success.”

    The partnership is rooted in shared values between ADL and the NJ NAACP: opposing hate and discrimination; promoting safe and inclusive communities, and protecting people’s civil rights.

    “For over a century, ADL and the NAACP have been united in a shared mission to ensure equal rights and dignity under the law,” noted ADL NY/NJ Regional Director Scott Richman.  “We know that the communities we represent face a common enemy in white supremacy and hate, and that we must face this threat by working together.”

    As part of the partnership, ADL and NJ NAACP will launch a series of town halls and listening sessions throughout the state to raise awareness among different New Jersey communities about the two organizations’ collaboration and the importance of identifying and reporting incidents of bias and hate. The campaign also aims to build bridges of acceptance and understanding among ADL and NAACP constituents, and to respond with a united voice to racism, antisemitism, and all forms of hate in New Jersey.

    To mark this momentous occasion, Senator Cory Booker had a message for the signing to show his support for two civil rights groups.

    “This pledge by the ADL and NAACP to build a stronger and more just society together speaks not only to the history of collaboration between the Black and Jewish communities, but also this moment in history,” said U.S. Senator Cory Booker. “We are facing trying times, but by joining together we can fight the scourge of white nationalism and intolerance in our nation as we march towards equality and justice for all.”

    New Jersey Assemblyman Jamel Holley also attended and was called on by President Smith to speak.

    "The African American and Jewish communities can only build stronger bridges through ongoing communication. That is why I have been one of the leading proponents of this partnership and look forward to playing a leading role in town halls and listening sessions that are being planned," said Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-20th Dist.) "Through collaboration, debate and discussion, we can truly mend our fences and sow the seeds for a future where bigotry, hate and anti-Semitism are no longer rooted in our communities. That is why this partnership between the ADL and the NJ NAACP is so critical and why I pray it is everlasting. Together, we are the united voice against the bias that has historically torn so many of our communities apart."

    In 2019, ADL tracked 2,107 antisemitic incidents, more than recorded at any other point in the last 40 years. According to recent FBI hate crime data, 2019 was the deadliest year on record with 51 hate crime murders – a 113-percent increase over the previous record of 24 set in 2018. Race-based hate crimes remained the most common type of hate crime (54%), as has been the case every year since the FBI began reporting hate crime data.


    ADL is a leading anti-hate organization. Founded in 1913 in response to an escalating climate of anti-Semitism and bigotry, its timeless mission is to protect the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all. Today, ADL continues to fight all forms of hate with the same vigor and passion. ADL is the first call when acts of anti-Semitism occur. A global leader in exposing extremism, delivering anti-bias education and fighting hate online, ADL’s ultimate goal is a world in which no group or individual suffers from bias, discrimination or hate.




  • With Scarce Vaccine, There Are Options to Find Appointments

    Vaccines are to be available to anyone who lives, works or studies in New Jersey, and the state is working to vaccinate as many eligible people as possible with the very limited doses available to the state.

    The limited vaccine impacts appointment availability and has prompted questions among those eligible for the vaccine on how to get one.

    Who can schedule an appointment:

    Vaccine eligibility currently includes healthcare workers in Phase 1A; sworn law enforcement and fire professionals who are the first group in Phase 1B to be included; individuals age 65 and over, and those age 16-64 with certain medical conditions.

    While people are encouraged to pre-register, there are currently many more people seeking vaccination than appointments available. State health officials continue to work to improve information on sites and accessibility.

    How to pre-register and schedule an appointment:

    Option 1: Individuals can pre-register for a vaccination appointment using the New Jersey Vaccine Scheduling System (NJVSS) at

    As appointments become available, the system will send emails prompting pre-registrants to schedule their first dose. Email notifications will be sent in batches based on recipient eligibility and availability of appointments. The email will contain a link to schedule an appointment with sites using NJVSS, as well as a link to a list of community-based sites that use their own scheduling system.

    Option 2: Individuals can make appointments online or by phone at open sites listed by county. There are megasites and other community-based sites serving as vaccination points of dispensing that have their own registration systems. Additional sites continue to be added.

    Please see below the link to make online appointments:

  • Jamel Congratulates Elizabeth Native for Reaching the Super Bowl

    Todd Bowles, a football standout at Elizabeth High School, who went on to a career as a NFL safety and then head coach of the New York Jets, is heading to the Super Bowl in Tampa as the defensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Bowles, from the Class of 1981, famously returned to Elizabeth in 2016 as the city’s waterfront football field has been renamed in his honor.

    “Todd Bowles, an Elizabeth native-turned-Super Bowl champion for the Redskins in 1988, has come to symbolize hope for Elizabeth’s future,” Jamel said, noting that Bowles presented the city schools with a $25,000 check, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd.

    “We could not be more proud of a native son of Elizabeth heading back to the big game,” Jamel said. “While we may not all be Buccaneer fans, we are all certainly Todd Bowles fans.”

  • published Black History Month 2021-02-10 13:41:39 -0500

    Black History Month

    Greetings from Your Assemblyman

    On Feb. 1, we will begin celebrating Black History Month.

    Since 1976, every American president has endorsed a specific theme. This year, it is “Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity,” exploring the African diaspora and the spread of Black families across the United States.

    To begin celebrating the positive impact of the Black community across the country, I think it is important to take a moment to explain the importance of this month and its rich history. I can still recall my teachers at Abraham Clark High School in Roselle educating us that Black History Month began in 1915, marking a half-century since the 13th Amendment was passed to abolish slavery.

    That September, the Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson and the prominent minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), an organization dedicated to researching and promoting achievements by Black Americans and other peoples of African descent.

    The group sponsored a national Negro History week in 1926, choosing the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The event inspired schools and communities nationwide to organize local celebrations, establish history clubs and host performances and lectures.

    And that has continued today in the towns of Elizabeth, Hillside, Roselle and Union Township, where a number of exciting events are being planned in the coming weeks.

    President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976, calling upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

    This issue of Jamel’s Journal honors some of those great Black Americans and our fellow ethnic leader partners in this legislative district whose drive toward community service has made our home a better plan to live and raise a family.

    It is incumbent upon all of us to learn about Black history and our struggle, as we take these important lessons to improve our society. Let us reaffirm those efforts as we come together, again, to mark another Black History Month.

    Yours, for the 20th Legislative District,

  • Wimberly, Quijano, Holley, Timberlake & McKnight Bill to Set New Regulation for Possession, Personal Use Advances to Governor’s Desk, Clears Legislature

    Moving to create more equitable laws on the possession and personal use cannabis and establish expedited and virtual expungements, the full Assembly approved legislation Thursday, 64-12-3, sponsored by Assembly members Benjie Wimberly, Annette Quijano, Jamel Holley, Britnee Timberlake, and Angela McKnight. The Senate approved the bill 31-2.

    “This is only one piece of the many parts of change that must be done in the name of social justice for our communities. The War on Drugs in many ways became a war on particular communities, incarcerating millions of people and affecting families irreparably for decades,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic). “The action we take now to help our black and brown communities who have been disproportionately affected by current laws surrounding cannabis use is critical to trauma for future generations.”

    “There have been far too many people, especially those from Black and Hispanic communities, who have been negatively impacted by the criminalization of cannabis,” said Quijano (D-Union). “There have been long term impacts on the lives of all people in this state, but considerably those of color. This legislation is the product of taking a hard look at our current laws, listening to the will of the majority of New Jerseyans and taking a common-sense approach to cannabis offenses.”

    The bill (A-1897) provides for certain criminal and civil justice reforms, particularly with respect to legal consequences associated with certain cannabis offenses as well as broadening awareness of available expungement relief.

    “Black New Jerseyans are up to four times more likely to be arrested on cannabis charges than White people. It is a sad fact, a further painful reminder that so people in our communities have been disenfranchised for far too long,” said Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Union). “There have always been glaring social justice concerns and obvious inequity in the high number of arrests of minority residents. Now, finally, is the time for it to stop.”

    New Jersey law enforcement officers made over 24,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, more than in the previous 20 years – approximately one every 22 minutes. African Americans are nearly three times more likely to be arrested for cannabis passion than white New Jerseyans, despite similar usage rates with white counterparts. Cannabis possession arrests also constituted three out of five drug arrests in 2012.

    The state spends approximately $127 million per year on cannabis possession enforcement costs.

    “It’s time for the change we seek,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “New Jersey residents are not happy with the status quo and we need to move in a direction of compassion for the communities that have long been targeted by current regulatory criteria. The call for action, for social justice reform, is resounding throughout our nation. And it begins with legislation such as this.”

    “Decriminalization and expungement for those who have been disproportionately incarcerated for marijuana offenses is well overdue in New Jersey and many other states throughout this nation,” said Timberlake (D-Essex). “A criminal marijuana charge has a detrimental effect on an individual’s opportunity to access higher education, obtain gainful employment, receive housing support, and address child custody issues.  Not all communities are impacted equally by marijuana enforcement, measures to reduce the collateral consequences of criminal records are ones of racial, social, and economic justice. This legislation is about social justice for a people who have endured the inequities in the law for generations.”

    The bill would regrade the unlawful distribution of, or possessing or having under control with intent to distribute, less than five pounds of marijuana or less than one pound of hashish.

    Under current law, distribution of less than five pounds, but at least one ounce or more, of marijuana, or distribution of less than one pound, but at least five grams or more, of hashish, is punishable as a crime of the third degree; this crime can be punishable by a term of imprisonment of three to five years, a fine of up to $25,000, or both.  Distribution of any smaller amounts, that is, less than one ounce of marijuana or less than five grams of hashish, is punishable as a crime of the fourth degree; this crime can be punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to 18 months, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

  • Karabinchak, Holley ‘Safe Stop’ Bill to Educate Drivers on Rights, Responsibilities When Stopped by Police Now Law

    Many new drivers are unaware of their rights and proper protocol when being pulled over by a police officer. To help educate residents to that extent, a bill encouraged by national dialogue on incidents occurring during routine law enforcement stops was signed into law on Monday.

    “Teaching drivers their rights as wells as how to safely interact with police during a stop must be a part of the driver curriculum. Surprisingly, the New Jersey Driver’s Manual currently does not include any language referencing what to do if stopped for a traffic violation,” said Karabinchak (D-Middlesex). “We are a diverse state comprised of many cultural backgrounds. Many new drivers may have their own perceptions of the police and do not know what a police stop entails. This new law aims to correct that discrepancy with a visual aid and tutorial of a standard police stop. An equally prepared driver and officer will make for more ‘safe stops’.”

    The new law (formerly bill A-3871) — sponsored by Assembly Democrats Robert Karabinchak and Jamel Holley—would require a potential driver to watch a video, created by the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) and the Attorney General, before they take a written examination for a validated permit.  The video will explain the rights and responsibilities of a driver stopped by a law enforcement officer.

    “Over the years, police-involved shootings of unarmed people of color have made national news time and time again. These particular incidents have fueled conversations on how we can better prepare our communities for interactions with police,” said Holley (D-Union). “The one way we can, in conjunction with the policies many police departments have already put into place, is to help drivers understand their rights and what to expect as the driver of the vehicle if they are ever pulled over. At the end of the day, we want to make sure the members of our community and our police officers get home safely.”

    The State Troopers Fraternal Association applauds the bill sponsors on taking the initiative in improving police and community relations and public safety with this new law.

    “Assuming control of a motor vehicle is a tremendous responsibility for all drivers but especially new and young drivers. Police officers in the State of New Jersey are among the most highly trained and professional in the nation and continually practice fair enforcement of the State’s traffic laws while ensuring the safety of the public and the police,” said Wayne Blanchard, President of the New Jersey State Troopers Fraternal Association. “The new law underscores and the importance of educating new and young drivers on the importance of knowing their Rights on a motor vehicle stop but more importantly their safe and respectful interaction with police officers during the course of the motor vehicle stop. This will ensure that the motor vehicle stop ends in a safe and positive manner. Unfortunately, new and young drivers are susceptible to extreme misguidance by the media and other outlets with incorrect information as to what they are entitled to during an encounter with police officers which ultimately results in a breakdown in police and community relations.”

    The new law also requires the MVC to expand the written examination to include a question, developed in conjunction with the Attorney General, testing the applicant’s knowledge of the rights and responsibilities of a driver stopped by a law enforcement officer.


  • Kennedy, Holley & Zwicker Bill to Aid 9/11 First Responders Signed Into Law – New Jersey Assembly Democrats

    Legislation to assist first responders who voluntarily participated in 9/11 rescue and recovery efforts was signed into law Monday by Governor Phil Murphy.

    The new law, sponsored by Assemblymen James Kennedy, Jamel Holley and Andrew Zwicker, expands eligibility for accidental disability allowance to include members or retirees of the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System (PFRS) and the State Police Retirement System (SPRS) who voluntarily responded to the attack.

    “When police and firefighters in New Jersey, received word that two planes had struck the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, many of them didn’t hesitate before responding to the scene, even though they were not specifically ordered to go,” said Kennedy (D-Middlesex, Somerset, Union). “Unfortunately, some suffered permanent or total disability. Due to the fact that they responded as volunteers, they are not entitled to the same compensation as their counterparts who were considered to be ‘on the job that day. It’s time to change that.”

    The law (A-4882) provides that a member or retirant of the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System (PFRS) and the State Police Retirement System (SPRS) is eligible to receive an accidental disability retirement allowance for a permanent and total disability resulting from participation in 9/11 World Trade Center rescue, recovery, or cleanup operations, whether or not they are instructed by an employer to participate. If a member participated in World Trade Center rescue, recovery, or cleanup operations for a minimum of eight hours, a disability resulting from a qualifying condition or impairment of health would be presumed to have occurred during and as a result of a member’s regular or assigned duties and not the result of the member’s willful negligence, unless the contrary can be proved by competent evidence. The presumption is available whether or not the member was assigned to participate.

    A member who did not participate in those operations for a minimum of eight hours would be eligible for the presumption provided that:

    • the member participated in the rescue, recovery, or cleanup operations at the World Trade Center site between September 11, 2001 and September 12, 2001;
    • the member sustained a documented physical injury at the World Trade Center site between September 11, 2001 and September 12, 2001 that is a qualifying condition or impairment of health resulting in a disability that prevented the member from continuing to participate for a minimum of eight hours; and the injury that resulted in a disability that prevented the member from doing so is the qualifying condition or impairment of health for which the member is seeking a presumption.

    “All of the heroic men and women who responded to Ground Zero deserve our utmost respect and admiration, regardless of whether they were on the clock,” said Holley (D-Holley). “They all saw the same terror, took the same risks, and worked towards the same goal. If their health has been affected in the time since, they all should be eligible for the same disability allowance. “

    “Our country is still feeling the effects of 9/11 today. The impact on those who were there – particularly our first responders – remains even more prevalent,” said Zwicker (D-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex and Hunterdon). “We can go further to honor our first responders by ensuring they are recognized and compensated for their service on 9/11, voluntary or otherwise. They deserve nothing less.”

    The law also provides for a reclassification of a service retirement or an ordinary disability retirement as an accidental disability retirement if the retirant, while a member of the retirement system, participated in the World Trade Center rescue, recovery, or cleanup operations a minimum of eight hours and incurred a disability in retirement caused by a qualifying condition or impairment of health which the medical board determines to be caused by the member’s participation in World Trade Center rescue, recovery or cleanup operations. The board of trustees is required to promulgate rules and regulations and to notify members and retirants in the retirement system of the enactment of the bill within 30 days of enactment.

    Additionally, the measure delineates the diseases recognized as qualifying conditions or impairments of health, and defines “World Trade Center rescue, recovery, or cleanup operations” to mean the rescue, recovery, or cleanup operations at the World Trade Center site between September 11, 2001 and October 11, 2001. The law also defines “World Trade Center site” to mean any location below a line starting from the Hudson River and Canal Street, east on Canal Street to Pike Street, south on Pike Street to the East River, and extending to the lower tip of Manhattan.

    The law was approved in June by the full Assembly, 76-0, and the full Senate, 37-0.

  • Holley statement of legalization of marijuana

    Holley statement of legalization of marijuana


    “The New Jersey Legislature has delivered the most progressive legislation in the nation regarding marijuana legalization, incorporating critical components of social justice and social equity that communities of color and others have been demanding for years.

    “This is a defining moment in the history of our state, as we finally put an end to a failed ‘War on Drugs’ that has shattered the lives of many, forced into lengthy, senseless incarceration. Families have been destroyed; neighborhoods have suffered for generations.”

    “Today, we begin to rebuild. This legislation serves as an opportunity to welcome many back into our community through expungements and the adjudication of minor drug offenses. I applaud my colleagues and Gov. Phil Murphy, who I know will quickly sign this bill for the sake of so many residents of this state.”

  • Assembly Committee Passes Quijano, Holley, Timberlake, McKnight, Danielsen & Wimberly, Bill Guiding Regulation of Adult-Use Cannabis in New Jersey

    Legislation to Provide for Infrastructure Regulation of Recreational Cannabis Use Acted on After NJ Voters Overwhelmingly Approved Legalization Ballot Question Nov. 3

    On November 3, New Jersey voters approved a ballot question, by roughly 67 percent, which asked to amend the State constitution to provide for the legalization of adult-use cannabis in New Jersey. Moving forward on the discussion of the over 200-page legislation to provide the infrastructure for cannabis regulation, the Assembly Federal Relations, and Oversight Reform Committee on Monday held a hearing and voted to advance A-21 that aims to set new, unprecedented guidelines in the state for the possession, personal use, and sale of cannabis.

    The bill’s sponsors, Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano, Jamel Holley, Britnee N. Timberlake, Angela McKnight, Joseph Danielsen, and Benjie Wimberly issued the following statements on its advancement in the Legislature:

    “This is the first step toward the long-overdue need to end cannabis prohibition,” said Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union). “So much time, effort, and thought have gone into this bill and although it is not perfect, today is the first conversation for what I believe will produce a stronger piece of legislation with a focused eye toward social justice and equity. Once the legislation is enacted, it will be the beginning of a new era of economic opportunity, social justice for marijuana possession, and hope for a better future for thousands of New Jersey residents.”

    “With legalization comes an unprecedented opportunity for residents to clean the slate with expungement provisions and for communities to grow their economic base with businesses,” said Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Union). “A key component of cannabis legalization is addressing social justice concerns. The fact that Black New Jerseyans are 3 or 4 times more likely to be arrested on cannabis charges has contributed to the disenfranchisement of black communities. We have the opportunity here to also right the wrongs in our society in regards to past criminal possession of cannabis. No matter where you stand in the legalized marijuana debate, there has been a clear understanding that minorities within our urban communities have been hit hardest in the so-called War on Drugs. During this entire campaign for legalization, there has been one united vocal stance: There was harm done in the past and it must be corrected.”

    “Today is a great day in New Jersey as we begin this discussion. This legislation includes real, enterprising opportunities for New Jersey communities that have been disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition, along with more defined employment opportunities and a commission that requires diversity,” said Assemblywoman Timberlake (D-Essex). “This will be a clear revenue generator for the State, and the social justice and diversity portion in the legislation remains imperative.”

    “Undoubtedly, this is the largest regulatory undertaking the state has considered since the Casino Control Commission,” said Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-Hudson). “Remaining at status quo meant continued disparity in arrests for African Americans and teens for amounts now to be considered personal use.  We are moving the state in a direction more compassionate for cannabis and in line with what is happening across the country in regards to legalization. Most importantly, NJ voters want it.”

    “This legislation has been a long time coming in our State. My committee is proud to have initiated the conversation on this issue important to our communities and mandated by New Jersey voters, “ said Assemblyman Danielsen (D-Somerset, Middlesex, who chairs the Assembly Federal Relations and Oversight Reform Committee led the discussion on the bill in today’s hearing. “Nearly 50 witnesses testified today in committee. Their input was welcomed and, as we move forward to get this bill to where it must be to help all communities, we will continue to listen and incorporate ideas. Social justice for black and brown communities, which have been generationally impacted by cannabis prohibition, and equity in business are priorities in this legislation. We cannot fairly, or effectively provide regulation without ensuring these communities stay at the forefront of the conversation.”

    “New Jersey voters on November 3rd issued the Legislature a mandate: to provide the infrastructure for the legalization of cannabis in New Jersey. Today, we have acted on that directive by presenting legislation for discussion with fellow legislation and statewide stakeholders,” said Assemblyman Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic). “The War on Drugs in many ways became a war on particular communities, incarcerating millions of black and brown people and affecting families irreparably for decades. This legislation also aims to correct the economic and social justice disparities surrounding cannabis use. This hearing marks the first step toward a greater goal.”


    A full copy of the legislation can be found here. Here are several key points of the bill:

    • Personal Rights – Legalizing the consumption, transportation, and possession of cannabis for personal use by persons age 21 and older of up to one ounce. Public consumption would remain unlawful.
    • Encourages Safer Communities, Lessens Impact of the Black Market, Dealers- Specific provisions are included in the bill for sale, purchase, deterring products from getting into the hands of young people, and on operations and sanitation that will keep residents informed of the contents of the product.
    • Reduces burden on the court system- The state would significantly reduce the cost that is approximately $127 million per year to enforce current marijuana possession offenses.
    • Creates Jobs, Economic Driver- Legalization and authorizing the taxation of cannabis sales would generate hundreds of millions of dollars to reinvest in New Jersey communities creating jobs for New Jersey residents.
    • Opens the job market to more residents- By setting providing expungement relief and providing a clean slate for residents with minor cannabis offenses, they can qualify for more jobs that offer stable employment with competitive salaries.
    • Promotes Social Equity- Creating an Office of Minority, Disabled Veterans, and Women Business Development to promote diversity in the marketplace ensuring women, minorities, and NJ veterans a seat at the table.
    • Impact Zones – Impact Zones are select priority municipalities for the Cannabis Regulatory Commission to issue licenses to residents in the Zones. There is established a 25% set-aside for applicants residing in these zones which were established based on four criteria: population size; marijuana arrests; crime index; and rate of unemployment.


  • 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.

  • 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.”