NJ Rep. Coleman behind bill to decriminalize all drug possession

New Jersey

FILE – This Thursday, May 22, 2014 file photo shows U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D- N.J., at the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J. While New Jersey is making progress toward getting more women involved in politics, analysts and female lawmakers say much more can and should be done to increase the number of women who hold elected office. Only 36 of 120 seats in the state Legislature are held by women and Democrat Bonnie Watson Coleman’s election in 2014 made her the first woman to represent the state in Congress in more than a decade. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

WASHINGTON — A bill led by one of New Jersey’s Congressional representatives would decriminalize all drug possession and replace it with health-based approaches in attempt to reverse the “War on Drugs.”

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, a Democrat who represents parts of Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset and Union Counties in Congress, introduced the Drug Policy Reform Act Thursday. The bill would, according to a spokesperson for Rep. Watson Coleman, end criminal penalties for drug possession at the federal level and to shift regulatory authority from the Justice Department to the Department of Health and Human Services. The bill would also expunge existing records and provide for resentencing, reinvest in alternative health-centered approaches, and eliminate many of the life-long consequences associated with drug arrests and convictions including the denial of employment, public benefits, immigration status, drivers’ licenses and voting rights.

“The United States has not simply failed in how we carried out the War on Drugs, the War on Drugs stands as a stain on our national conscience and since its very inception,” said Rep. Watson Coleman. “Begun in 1972 as a cynical political tactic of the Nixon Administration, the War on Drugs destroyed the lives of countless Americans and their families. As we work to address the opioid epidemic, it is essential that we change tactics in how we address drug use, away from the failed punitive approach to a health-based and evidence-based approach.”

Rep. Watson Coleman cited an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) poll showing that the vast majority of American voters believe the War on Drugs has failed (83%). The poll also found that 66% of American voters were in support of removing criminal penalties for drugs and replacing them with health-centered approaches.

Watson Coleman co-authored the bill with Missouri Rep. Cori Bush. It’s co-sponsors include local representatives, including Reps. Adriano Espaillat, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jamaal Bowman.

The bill, if passed, would automatically expunge and seal records within one year of it’s enactment; provide relief for those currently incarcerated or on supervision for some drug convictions; promote evidence-based drug education; prohibits people from being fired or not hired based upon criminal history for drug possession; explicitly prohibits drug testing for individuals to receive federal benefits; prevents drug use charges or convictions from being held against a person in order to receive SNAP or housing assistance; prevents denial of immigration status due to personal drug use; prevents people from being denied the right to vote over drug use status; allows individuals with drug convictions to get access to drivers’ licenses; and improves research on impact of drug criminalization and enforcement.

You can read the entire bill here.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

New Jersey Videos

Fatal motorcycle crash on I-287 in New Jersey

Newark Moonlight Cinema drive-in returns

Fast-moving fire destroys NJ apartment building, displacing about 75 people

Large fire engulfs Carteret, NJ apartment complex

Vigil held for slain NJ mother killed by ex-boyfriend who abducted her, 2-year-old son

NJ 10-year-old wows in the kitchen

More New Jersey

PIX on Politics

NYC mask mandate debate heats up as delta variant spurs new COVID cases

On the record with Eric Adams: NYC mayoral candidate talks congestion pricing, COVID, more

PIX on Politics panel: Is the NYC mayoral election over?

Congressman Ritchie Torres on NYC shootings: ‘Abandon’ defund police movement, invest in social infrastructure

NYC mayoral elections: Race heats up after Adams wins Democratic nomination

Manhattan DA candidate Alvin Bragg 'very equipped' to handle Trump case

More PIX on Politics

Connect with PIX11 Online

Connect with PIX11 Online

Trending Stories

Don't Miss

@PIX11News on Twitter