Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has announced an immediate adjournment on all marijuana cases in municipal courts until at least September, a move that could affect thousands of New Jersey residents.
In a memo to all 21 county prosecutors dated July 24, Grewal said he wants to issue a statewide directive by the end of August concerning the “appropriate use of prosecutorial discretion in marijuana-related offenses in municipal court.”
“I ask that all municipal prosecutors in New Jersey seek an adjournment until Sept. 4, 2018, or later, of any matter involving a marijuana-related offense pending in municipal court,” Grewal wrote. “This adjournment will give my office sufficient time to develop appropriate guidance for prosecutors.”
But Grewal does not specify whether the adjournment would extend to marijuana arrests.
The directive averts a potential legal showdown between the state and Jersey City, which on July 19 said it was decriminalizing marijuana.
Jersey City 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, encouraged prosecutors to dismiss low-level cannabis offenses and recommended community court for individuals with a criminal history or signs of addiction.
Grewal wrote Hudnut to tell him he has no legal authority to decriminalize marijuana or refuse to prosecute related offenses. The letter notes Jersey City has rescinded the decriminalization policy.
But the July 24 memo indicates that Grewal plans to meet with Hudnut and the Hudson County Prosecutor later this summer as part of the marijuana decriminalization discussions.
Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-22nd District, a key advocate for adult-use cannabis, said Monday he intends to move ahead to try and get a bill passed that would legalize adult use of cannabis.
That same day, Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, said he wants to tie recreational cannabis legalization to the expansion of the state's medical marijuana program.
“Right now, we’re working amongst ourselves to get two documents, at least, that we can talk about,” Sweeney said, “because I keep reading what people say they’re going to do, or not going to do.”
Gov. Phil Murphy initially penciled $60 million into the 2019 budget from the taxation of adult-use marijuana, but budget talks delayed the legalization process and the tax revenue was removed.
The 2019 budget includes $20 million from the expansion of the state’s existing medical marijuana program, which now has 25,000 patients and just announced it would accept applications for six new medical dispensaries.