Finally, there’s a step in the right direction for New Jersey thanks to a new cannabis decriminalization bill that was approved by the New Jersey Assembly on June 18, 2020. A desperate heave for further legalization support, maybe? None the less, Garden State residents can look forward to more cannabis reform laws sooner than later.
According to the new legislation, possession of up to two ounces of cannabis attracts a civil penalty punishable by $50 fine and no jail time. This legislation got cleared in the chamber by 63 – 10 votes. Legislators have continued to push for modest reforms as a November referendum on broader Marijuana legalization approaches.
“A lot of activists seem to not understand the subjects of Cannabis and Hemp are too advanced for this body (NJ State legislature and judicial branches) and it’s predecessors. Evidence by the ACLU’s arrest report on low level nonviolent minor possession of Cannabis. The fact they chose to make full legalization a ballot measure rather than legislatively legalizing is also proof they’re not a properly educated body as a whole” says U.S. Army Veteran and Garden State resident Leo Bridgewater.
The ACLU report Leo speaks of highlights how 15 of 21 New Jersey’s Counties cannabis arrest rates were higher than the national level. New Jersey saw an overall increase in cannabis arrest, as well as the number of blacks arrested compared to whites, who are 3.5 times more likely to be arrested since ACLU’s last report released in 2013.
Decriminalization interest increased amidst protests where arguments were focused on the racial injustice that occurs due to the disparities in the criminal justice system.
The proposal cited punishment of up to six months in prison or up to $1,000 fine for possession of more than two ounces but less than one pound of cannabis.
Prominent cannabis activist Edward Forchion, better known as the NJWeedman, excitedly states, “As a black marketeer I wholeheartedly welcome “Decrim”; since legalization won’t include us. Now that we see legalization is turning into a white-only monopoly. The Black Market sees this as a way to expand our illicit 420 businesses”.
Possession of up to two ounces will be treated as the authorized possession of medical cannabis according to the “legal presumption” which would be created by the bill. Advocates for the legalization of Marijuana considers this a step in the right direction. Some shortcoming in the bill which they hoped will be amended soon was also noticed. Shortcomings like possession of Marijuana paraphernalia will remain illegal and people getting arrested for being under the influence of cannabis will be looked into.
Decriminalization can not be the final answer. So well, what’s next for New Jersey? Cannabis legalization will be on the ballot in November, which has a lot of people now wondering should New Jersey rush to vote yes and legalize weed, or should they pace themselves and wait for a fair and diverse legalization bill to come down the pike. Despite polls saying legalization is likely to happen in November, campaigns to “Vote No” have started statewide.