NJ Legislators Consider Marijuana Decriminalization Measure
Posted by Marijuana Doctors on 05/18/2012 in Medical Marijuana Laws
Lawmakers in New Jersey are set to consider a bill that would decriminalize the possession of up to a half ounce of marijuana, which is a move that brings the state’s drug policies that much closer to those neighboring the state such as Connecticut and New York. The New Jersey Assembly Judiciary Committee is slated to hold a hearing for the bill on Monday, which would downgrade the possession of small amounts of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, making them both punishable by fines.
The bill entitled A1465 would decriminalize possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana. The proposal calls for penalties of $100 up to $500 for marijuana possession and fines of $100 for possession of pipes, rolling papers and other drug paraphernalia. Underage violators or violators who have multiple convictions would be referred to drug counseling services.
A1465 is co-sponsored by fifteen democrats and three republicans. Reed Gusciora of Trenton, a democratic assemblyman and primary sponsor, said that the bill recognizes that current drug laws are overly punitive when regarding marijuana. At this current moment, a conviction for possession of a single joint could result in an ending sentence of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. On top of that, an additional $800 in mandatory court fees and a six month loss of a driver’s license would be imposed.
“This bill would put us in line with neighboring states of Connecticut and New York, which recently decriminalized marijuana possession,” said Gusciora, who is also a municipal prosecutor in Princeton, Hopewell Boroughs and Lawrenceville. The Drug Policy Alliance supports the bill and says that the current laws waste law enforcement officer’s time and taxpayer’s money.
Roseanne Scott, New Jersey State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said, “More than 22,000 individuals were arrested for marijuana possession in the state of New Jersey in 2012.” She also made note that, “People may lose jobs or be unable to secure employment because of a criminal record. Students who incur a marijuana conviction can lose their student loans.”
Republican Governor Chris Christie proposed a mandatory treatment for nonviolent drug offenders rather than jail, and e has appropriated about $2.5 million to put into next year’s proposed budget in order to get the program started. Christie said its time to empty prisons of inmates who are drug-dependent but who are not criminals. Democrats prefer a limited and more affordable pilot program to see if mandatory treatment really works.
Democratic Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson said imposing mandatory treatment statewide would cost nearly $20 million. The Assembly Judiciary Committee approved a measure earlier this month that advocate the “go-slow” approach. One bill creates a two-year mandatory drug treatment pilot program in two counties, and the other allows for criminal drug records to be erased for people who successfully complete the program.