The ACLU-NJ urged quick passage of a bill that will solidify certain details of cannabis legalization and decriminalization after a hearing and yes vote in the Assembly Community Development and Affairs Committee.
The legislation clarifies consequences for possession by people ages 18 to 20 – a $50 fine for 1 ounce or less, and $100 for more than 1 ounce or use – and, for young people under 18, point-of-violation warnings and juvenile interventions from law enforcement that will not directly lead to arrests or creation of criminal records, and requirements for public reporting of that information. It also creates a new commission to monitor law enforcement’s procedures when it comes to cannabis possession and use among minors.
This bill would accompany two main bills that are awaiting Gov. Murphy’s signature: S21/A21 to legalize cannabis, with a significant portion of revenue going toward social justice, and S2535/A1897, a bill decriminalizing possession of marijuana up to 6 ounces, ending the majority of marijuana arrests.
The following statement can be attributed to ACLU-NJ Policy Director Sarah Fajardo:
“Cannabis prohibition and the arrests and racial disparities in enforcement it has perpetuated have gone on for much too long, and we need cannabis legalization and decriminalization to go into law urgently. The policy issues addressed in today’s clean-up bill need to be ironed out for legalization and decriminalization to be implemented, and we call on the Legislature and executive branch to advance this bill and clear the way for arrests to end and for a new marketplace to start taking shape.
“We must also ensure that no one is unjustly ensnared in a criminal legal system marked by inequities, and that includes young people. This bill’s new commission monitoring enforcement of youth possession and use will help provide a clear, transparent look into how youth enforcement is carried out in practice – and lay the groundwork for further reforms if we see the same racial disparities in juvenile justice and cannabis enforcement play out here
“No matter what, a number of policy questions will remain even after legalization and decriminalization have gone into effect – and, the sooner we start putting these laws into place, the sooner we can begin working to improve the system that arises from it to ensure that it is centered in justice and equity for those who have been most harmed by our current laws.
“We thank the Legislature for its actions to get A5342 closer to the finish line, and we will continue working to reduce the harms of our current cannabis laws across the state.”