Today, New Jersey’s attorney general announced that all weed cases in municipal courts across the state would be adjourned until September or later. According to a letter to prosecutors acquired by NJ Advance Media, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal wrote that the move would allow his office time to provide “appropriate guidance” to prosecutors.
This decision might be a prelude to the legalization of weed in New Jersey.
NJ Advance Media writes:
Meanwhile, a source in the state Senate also told NJ Advance Media on Monday that a bill legalizing adult-use marijuana sponsored by state Sen. Nick Scutari, D-Union — himself a municipal prosecutor in the city of Linden — was expected to reach the Senate for consideration by September as well.
Assuming the Senate passes the bill, the combination of the two actions could effectively end prosecution of marijuana possession in New Jersey permanently.
This decision by the attorney general could have huge implications for New Jersey residents, 32,000 of whom were charged for weed-related offenses in 2016. New Jersey has the second-highest arrest rate for pot-related offenses, behind Wyoming.
The last few weeks has been tumultuous for pot users in New Jersey, as the government has waffled on their intentions regarding the drug.
Last week, Jersey City’s newly installed prosecutor, Hudnut, announced his office would seek to downgrade some marijuana charges to non-criminal offenses, seek the outright dismissal of low-level marijuana charges and divert those defendants with prior drug arrests and signs of addiction to the city’s community court.
Almost immediately however, the state attorney general’s office responded, warning Hudnut that “you do not have the legal authority to decriminalize marijuana or otherwise refuse to criminally prosecute all marijuana-related offenses in the municipal courts of Jersey City,” adding that only the Legislature could take such action.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has indicated he supports the move towards legalization. At a press conference today, he briefly addressed the topic, according to NJ Advance Media.
“I’ll tell you what we want the final product to be — and we were just doing some business walking in here — which is adult use legalization, sooner rather than later,” said Murphy, gesturing to the Senate president Sweeney standing behind him. “I’m all in.”
That sounds pretty final.
Cops, however, say they have no intention of changing their enforcement of current laws while the weed cases across the state are adjourned. “We have a duty and obligation to enforce the laws as their written right now,” Wayne Blanchard, the president of the New Jersey State Troopers Fraternal Association, told NJ Advance Media.
As of 2018, nine states have legalized weed use, while even more have decriminalized its use or allowed provisions for medical use. Soon, Jersey’s nine million residents may join them.