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Jersey City decriminalizes cannabis

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Amidst a push to legalize recreational marijuana in the state, Jersey City becomes the first municipality to decriminalize it.
Amidst a push to legalize recreational marijuana in the state, Jersey City becomes the first municipality to decriminalize it. - ()

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.”

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Daniel J. Munoz

Daniel J. Munoz

Daniel Munoz covers politics and state government for NJBIZ. You can contact him at dmunoz@njbiz.com.

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Ben James July 19, 2018 9:59 am

I am 62 and have been consuming cannabis off and on for over 44 years. I am a husband, father, electronics engineer, successful business owner, musician, community volunteer and marathon runner. I never use alcoholic beverages or tobacco products. My health is excellent, and my memory is intact. I vaporize cannabis, no smoke, no smell, no problems. I finished my third marathon at Big Sur Marathon April 2017, first place in my division with a finish time of 3 hours, 25 minutes and 8 seconds. I'm just one of millions of health conscious Americans seeking the healthiest pathways forward in all aspects of my life. How long before the federal government quits lying to us and admits that cannabis is far safer than alcoholic beverages or tobacco?

The madness is over! Legalize, regulate and tax recreational cannabis!

T Micai July 19, 2018 12:17 pm

Brilliant, treat a drug crisis by putting more drugs on the street.