Today, 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 in the state, 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.
If the bill is approved by the Senate in its current form, and signed into law, it will have significant loopholes that would allow for continued criminalization of marijuana users, MPP reported. 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.
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.
New Jersey lawmakers approved a resolution last year that will allow voters to decide whether to legalize cannabis for adults’ use in November 2020. In April, Monmouth University released a poll finding 61% of voters would vote in favor of the measure.