A first-of-its-kind report from the New Jersey State Policy Lab at Rutgers University examining the current state of health, education and law enforcement factors related to marijuana usage highlights many disparities throughout the state and is designed to be used as a baseline to measure the impact of legalization and guide future changes to policy.
“This report is critical to New Jersey setting a model similar to other states in recognizing that all people in the state are not the same, and by legalizing cannabis, its impact on different communities is going to vary,” Charles Menifield, dean of Rutgers University-Newark School of Public Affairs and Administration and the study’s principal investigator, said in a press release.
The study uses a wealth of secondary data to provide a snapshot of present-day usage and law-enforcement measures across age, racial and gender lines. It also gauges youth attitudes toward marijuana, as well as medical and behavioral health factors that could be affected by legalization, such as suicide rates and the number of people entering treatment facilities for marijuana addiction.
Some of the most glaring racial disparities highlighted in the report occurred within the legal system. The number of Black residents arrested for selling marijuana was more than five times higher than white residents. Black residents were four times as likely to be arrested for possession. Data also indicated that racial disparities in school discipline could be linked to marijuana usage and the study recommends schools provide more detailed information in the future, said Menifield.
The study emphasizes the importance of nuanced statewide research to understand the full scope of legalization. The goal is to use the data for comparative analysis over time to help shape state policy.
“In the years to come, it is absolutely necessary for the state to do a deeper dive into cannabis usage,” said Menifield.
— Brian Beckley