On Thursday, the New Jersey Assembly voted in favor (63-10, with five abstentions) of a decriminalization bill (A.1897) that would decriminalize possession, manufacture, and distribution of up to two ounces of cannabis, reducing the penalty to a $50 civil fine. The bill would also create a virtual expungement process and prohibit discrimination in lending, housing, and public accommodations for prior offenses. You can check out a full summary of the bill here.
Unfortunately, the bill that was advanced has significant loopholes that would allow for continued criminalization of marijuana users. New Jerseyans could still be arrested and incarcerated for possession of cannabis-related paraphernalia (including the container cannabis is in), being under the influence of cannabis, or failing to hand over cannabis to law enforcement.
A more comprehensive decriminalization bill (S. 2535) has also been filed in the Senate. The Senate bill would decriminalize up to one pound of cannabis, includes provisions to eliminate law enforcement’s ability to detain or arrest someone based on the smell or odor of cannabis, and prevents discrimination for past convictions in housing and public accommodations. You can read a full summary of the Senate bill here.
As the Senate bill awaits a hearing, you can amplify the need for decriminalization NOW. Ask your state senators to call for a hearing and vote on S. 2535 NOW!
Currently, simple possession of cannabis is punishable by up to six months in jail. According to an ACLU-NJ report, the number of cannabis arrests have risen over the last decade, with the latest data finding that 94 individuals are arrested every day for cannabis in New Jersey.
We know that decriminalization is a vital interim step to prevent thousands of arrests between now and when the November legalization ballot measure would take effect. You can help us advocate for a strong decriminalization bill by contacting your senator and urging them hold an immediate hearing on S. 2535. Then, please spread the word to your friends and family in New Jersey so that they, too, can raise their voices for justice.