Testimony before the NJ Assembly and Senate Judiciary Committee on Marijuana Legalization
Prepared by: Monica B. Taing, PharmD
November 26, 2018
Good morning honorable members of the New Jersey State Legislature,
My name is Monica Taing. I am a Jersey City-based cannabis pharmacist originally from Massachusetts, I graduated from Northeastern University with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. While completing my doctorate, a salient research experience focusing on the Endocannabinoid Receptor System inspired me to dedicate my career to evidence-based education of cannabis and cannabinoid medicine for underserved patient populations and the healthcare community as a clinical educator. I am a Board Member of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, or DFCR, and the National Director of Research and Clinical Education of Minorities for Medical Marijuana. DFCR is a coalition member of the New Solutions Campaign for the Drug Policy Alliance of New Jersey, or DPA-NJ, and a coalition member of New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform, or NJUMR, advocating for fair and equitable marijuana legalization. Additionally, I am a clinical consultant specialist for the Northeast/Caribbean AIDS Education Training Center. I lecture to patient groups, clinicians and the general public on therapeutic safety and efficacy of the most recent cannabis research. I am submitting this testimony today to comment on Senate Bill 2703.
New Jersey marijuana laws have a disproportionate impact on communities of color. African Americans and Latinos are three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites even though both use marijuana at the same rates. Criminal enforcement of marijuana prohibition is a contributor to racial imbalances in arrests, the crisis of mass incarceration, worsening poverty (which ultimately limits access to healthcare) and has exacerbated the opioid crisis with underground sales of marijuana often associated with those of other drugs. As New Jersey considers legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana, fairness and equity demand a system that includes policies that provide a level playing field and address past harms, including:
- Requirements that the state actively strive to achieve diversity in the cannabis industry and facilitate industry entry for individuals from different socioeconomic backgrounds
- Provisions intended to repair communities most harmed by marijuana prohibition including retroactive expungement and earmarked investment of revenue generated into communities
- Recent and relevant criminal convictions should not hinder individuals to be actively employed by the industry (and bills should be updated to reflect this consideration)
- Civil penalties for marijuana activities that occur outside the new legal system to avoid the continuation of a criminal system that disproportionately harms communities of color
Even without a conviction, the consequences of an arrest can include untold stigma, shame, stereotyping, and a fiscal burden of a criminal court proceeding plus lost hours at work or school. The resulting criminal record subjects a person to a system of legal discrimination that can last a lifetime and can make it difficult or impossible to secure employment, housing, student loans, or even a driver’s license. Accordingly, these organizations urge an amendment to Senate Bill 2703 to support marijuana legalization legislation that creates a fair and equitable marijuana market.
The following regulations serve as vital examples to enhance diverse inclusivity plus public health outcomes of legalized cannabis and should be implemented as a priority:
- Diversity in all sectors of the cannabis industry
- Taxation of adult-use cannabis to fund equity programs for communities harmed by the war on drugs
- Expungement of cannabis arrests, charges, and convictions from criminal records
- Prevention of non-medical underage cannabis use through:
- Evidence-based education about the risks of cannabis use
- Child-resistant packaging
- A ban on packaging, marketing, and advertising that attracts underage users
- Penalties for adults who enable diversion
- Detailed labeling of cannabis products with health and safety information
- Government oversight of cannabis production, testing, distribution, and sales
On behalf of DFCR and M4MM, I thank you for considering this most important public health and social justice issue.
Monica B. Taing, PharmD
Dr. Taing, PharmD, RPh graduated from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree and a Bachelor of Science degree in Pharmacy Studies where she completed Endocannabinoid Receptor System research. Since becoming the first Patient Experience Manager at a licensed alternative treatment center in New Jersey, today Dr. Taing is a clinical cannabis consultant for licensed dispensaries, hospital systems, and academic medical institutions in multiple states. Dr. Taing is the first Medical Science Liaison for 4Front Ventures, the National Director of Research & Clinical Education for Minorities for Medical Marijuana (M4MM), a clinical consultant specialist for Columbia University’s Northeast/Caribbean AIDS Education Training Center (NEC-AETC), and sits on the Editorial Board of the American Journal of Endocannabinoid Medicine (AJEM). Dr. Taing is passionate about clinical research, patient counseling, public health education, multidisciplinary clinical outreach, and harm reduction advocacy for under-served patient populations.