Assembly Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Decriminalization Legislation In New Jersey

The legislation now moves to the state Senate for further consideration

On Thursday, members of the New Jersey state Assembly approved a substitute version of A1897 by a 63-10 vote, with five abstentions. As currently written, the measure decriminalizes the possession and distribution of up to two ounces of marijuana by adults — making these activities punishable by a $50 fine. Those found to be in violation of the law will no longer be arrested or saddled with a criminal record.

Under current law, marijuana possession offenders may receive up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Annually, police make over 30,000 marijuana-related arrests in New Jersey. That total is among the highest of any state in the nation.

The legislation now moves to the state Senate for further consideration.

Twenty six additional states and the District of Columbia have either legalized or decriminalized the adult possession and use of marijuana.

Earlier this week, members of the NJ Assembly Community Development and Affairs Committee approved a substitute version of the measure, which was combined with A4269, a separate pending decriminalization measure. As originally written, A1897 would have decriminalized the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana.

Garden State NORML is urging lawmakers to adopt additional provisions included in a measure currently pending in the Senate, S2535. Specifically, advocates seek the inclusion of broader social justice provisions that seek to provide relief to those communities disproportionately targeted and destroyed by the War on Drugs, such as barring police from stopping and searching people because they smell marijuana; allowing those on probation or parole to use marijuana without it impacting their release; and directing New Jersey courts to develop a system to seal past records.

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