#NJRR Live With Brian Powers

Hosted ByBrian Powers

#NJRR​ Live: Weed! Plus a panel on Technology Taking Over Labor: Life Without Work?

Welcome to #NJRR Live!

Hello and welcome, readers and listeners, to another episode of #NJRR Live! We are coming at you on Wednesday night, as we usually do. For those of you who don’t know, Revolution Radio is a national independent media network created to foster art and activism. We are proletariat-driven, bringing information to the grassroots when corporate media won’t. We also like to talk about weed when we can.

For our first guest tonight we welcome our writer and in-house weed scholar/expert, Leah Giannantonio, to the show. Leah holds a minor degree in Cannabis Studies from Stockton University. She considers herself very lucky for the fact that she was already attending Stockton University when the minor was announced. Leah first joined Revolution Radio through the Cannabis Studies internship program that was required by her university. Needless to say, she is incredibly grateful for the existence of the Cannabis Studies minor at Stockton University.

Where’s NJ’s Legal Weed?

Leah wants to address a question: Why isn’t weed legal yet in NJ? It’s in the constitution that the cultivation, processing, and sale of retail marijuana or persons age 21 and older has been legal starting Jan. 1, however, without the corresponding legislation, it is effectively still illegal. There are still no dispensaries for legal purchasing and there have been no laws signed allowing for the possession of weed.

A New Jersey Attorney General has declared that prosecutors should adjourn low-level marijuana prosecutions until March. Most if not all of the low-level marijuana charges that have been made in 2021 will be dropped. However, arrests are still happening every day. The numbers vary but NJ.com reports that there have been over 6,000 marijuana-related arrests this year.

Unnecessary Police Encounters

According to the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, Black people are 3.5 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people (this statistic persists even though Black people and white people use the plant at similar rates.) Mathematically, that’s over 4,000 unnecessary interactions between Black people and police in New Jersey this year so far. As we’ve seen once again this past year, these encounters are more than often dangerous and can end tragically. 

There are currently at least two bills that would legalize marijuana literally sitting on Phil Murphy’s desk but he won’t touch them. Remember a few years ago when this man was running for office and he promised that he would prioritize cannabis legalization? It just goes to show that politicians will say anything, co-opt any movement, to get into office.

Holdups, Hangups, Or Excuses? 

So, what’s the holdup? Or, to phrase it more accurately, what’s the excuse? We the people voted to amend the New Jersey constitution to legalize marijuana in November. 

Despite 2.7 million New Jersey residents who voted yes on the ballot, New Jersey has yet become the 13th state to legalize marijuana.

The official line would probably be something about “complex legislative hangups.” Leah is here to clear up just what that fancy lingo means. One argument that Governor Murphy wants resolved before he’ll sign the bill is that of how much, if any, people under 21 will be fined for low-level cannabis possession. Some lawmakers want to impose the fine for regulatory and revenue purposes. Still, others are concerned about the social justice aspect of imposing additional restrictions on young people. 

Social Justice Concerns

Another social justice issue is that many lawmakers want the initial legislature to include expungement and set aside revenue for communities where marijuana laws have been disproportionately and cruelly enforced against Black people for decades. That’s truly nice but it wasn’t what was on the ballot. 

Revolution Radio wants expungement as much as anyone: Brian has been arrested for cannabis charges. However, it would be better to legalize weed right now and in turn hurry up with putting out the expungement legislation separately. All the people seeking social justice are actually accomplishing the opposite by trying to force the legislation as a package deal. Doing so will make it take longer for weed to be legal but it won’t significantly expedite expungement legislation.

We The People

Lastly, legislators have been bickering over technical issues of cultivation permits/licenses as well as balancing employer and employee rights when it comes to cannabis use. Ultimately, what we have here is a situation where the people of New Jersey have spoken in abundant favor of something but politicians are blocking it through inaction.

[February 17, 2021 Episode of #NJRR Live with Brian Powers featuring Leah Giannantonio, Marilyn Gomez-Agudelo, and Pat Fahy]

#NJRR Live Welcomes Pat Fahy and Marilyn Gomez-Agudelo

We now welcome Editorial Board members Pat Fahy and Marilyn Gomez-Agudelo to our panel. Marilyn is a young activist who joins us tonight from Florida. Brian met her in a Facebook comments thread and the rest is history. Pat has been a comrade of Brian’s for many years; they first met through a Union back when Brian worked for Verizon. Pat has since retired and moved to New Mexico. There, he continues his activism and contributes to our network in various ways.

One of Pat’s contributions is tonight’s topic for panel discussion, which is automation, jobs, and labor. Pat wrote an article about this topic a while back and is here today to discuss the topic further. Pat opens with an excellent point: automation would be a much less scary thing were we not living under capitalism. As it stands under capitalism, people associate the term “automation” with losing their jobs and in turn their livelihood. 

Automation Under Capitalism

This is because, under capitalism, profits are always the priority. If it is cheaper to replace you with a self-service kiosk or robot, your boss will do so, and he’ll do it with a smile. During the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve seen hundreds of thousands if not millions of people lose employment in favor of automated systems under the excuse of the automation being more sterile and therefore safer. However, these people will likely never get those jobs back. This is because It is often cheaper to maintain a robot or computer in the long term than to pay a person.

The job market has gone to shit as qualified kids continue to graduate from colleges looking for work opportunities that do not exist. Many people never realize the potential of their education in the workforce. Many still can’t even find any type of work whatsoever in the wake of the pandemic. 

Automation Under Communism

Under communism, automation would exist side-by-side with laborers to ease their workload as desired. Under capitalism, automation will replace much of the workforce because it is more profitable that way. Right now, people are noticing the problem. An unprecedented number of people in America are out of work and in turn desperate for jobs. There is dissent in the air. It is essential that we concentrate this energy in a productive way.

The panel discusses their individual ideas of an ideal world relative to a balance of automation and human labor. Leah would personally enjoy a world where she was free to foster her creative passions full-time and guilt free. Marilyn relates, noting that we should embrace development in automation because no one should have to spend their lives doing a bullshit job that they don’t want to be doing. Brian clarifies that some people, including himself at times, do glean fulfillment from simple work from time to time and that is perfectly valid. 

All Play And No Work?

Brian also acknowledges that there is work which cannot be automated that is absolutely necessary for a functioning society (i.e. surgeons.) We will still need the general population to step up and contribute to society, no matter how far automation goes. As with all things, there is a balance here, and people will need to find it. 

Ultimately, there would (generally) be no need for the 40 hour work week in an ideal communist society. Think, instead, along the lines of a 10-15 hour work week full of free time to spend with loved ones, develop creatively, work on growing as a person, collaborate with like-minded individuals, or to do any other wonderful thing you can think of.

What We Should Do Now

Unfortunately, we won’t be seeing that ideal world any time soon. As it stands, we are held back by capitalism. Human potential is truncated by society’s capitalistic system of exploitation. That is why we have to keep fighting at the grassroots. We only truly lose when we abandon hope. This pandemic is a crisis moment and we’ve seen how the right has latched onto it to push white supremacy and the like. The left needs to grasp the moment, too, and use it to push positive things such as universal basic income.

There is a phrase among revolutionary communities that we need to build a new world from the ashes of the old. Well, Brian points out, we’ve been standing in a pile of ashes. Technology is one of humanity’s strongest points as a species. If we develop it with the proper ethical considerations, we could accomplish beautiful things.

Until next week, everyone, stay safe and stay informed.

-Leah Giannantonio, for Revolution Radio

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