Starting today, Jersey City will be the first municipality in the state to decriminalize marijuana.
Chief Prosecutor Jacob Hudnut, in a July 19 memo to the city’s assistant prosecutors, instructed them to downgrade some marijuana offenses to non-criminal offenses, encourage prosecutors to dismiss low-level cannabis offenses and recommend community court for individuals with a criminal history or signs of addiction.
“New Jerseyans of color are three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana,” Hudnut wrote.
Jersey City’s policy comes amidst a statewide push to legalize recreational marijuana, a key point of Gov. Phil Murphy’s 2017 campaign platform.
The policy, effective today, applies to five offenses: possession, possession while in a motor vehicle, being under the influence, use or possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia, and loitering to obtain or distribute a controlled dangerous substance.
Those would be downgraded to non-criminal dispositions. But a person can still be criminally charged with driving while under the influence of marijuana.
Prosecutors are encouraged to impose a either a $50 fine or five hours of community service for those convicted of the newly downgraded offenses.
Mayor Steven Fulop praised the new policy.
“When you look at the statistics around racial disparities in arrests, when you look at the impact an arrest can have on one’s life, when you look at the resources that we devote to prosecuting - all of these lead us to the conclusion this change is the right decision,” Fulop said.
And the New Jersey Civil Liberties Union called the new policy a “monumental step.”