TRENTON, NJ — A bi-partisan bill has been introduced to legalize the possession of marijuana in New Jersey. If passed by the legislature, the law would not take effect in the state unless the voters approve it.
Assemblymen Reed Gusciora (D-Trenton) and Michael Patrick Carroll (R-Morris Plains) last week filed Assembly Bill 2842, a ballot initiative that would put marijuana legalization in the hands of New Jersey voters.
The bill proposes legalizing possession of up to one ounce of marijuana as well as marijuana paraphernalia used within the guise of the new laws. In order to get on the ballot, the bill needs to be passed by the State Assembly and Senate and signed by Governor Chris Christie.
If this bill is passed, New Jersey would be the first state to pass a marijuana legalization measure of any kind through a state legislature.
It should be noted that this bill does not address taxation, regulation or cultivation of marijuana and current criminal penalties still apply to possession of over one ounce.
Currently in New Jersey, possession of up to 50 grams of marijuana is a disorderly persons offense to possess, punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to six months or a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
New Jersey currently arrests over 22,000 people every year for marijuana possession at a cost of over 125 million dollars of taxpayer money. In contrast, with a taxed and regulated cannabis market, Colorado has generated over two million dollars in tax revenue since authorizing sales of marijuana, not counting law enforcement savings.
“As a society we are not well served economically by all the judges, probation officers, police and huge amounts of money dedicated to arresting people for a harmless plant and we are creating modern day ‘Al Capones’,” bill sponsor Assemblyman Carroll told The Daily Chronic.
When asked why this bill does not include establishing a taxed and regulated cannabis market, Carroll explained that the “government should get out of policing it (marijuana) entirely and I think this is the best we can get through the legislature at this time.”
“This would put the issue to the people,” added Assemblyman Gusciora. “More and more people are inclined to support legalization as opposed to decriminalization. Police have better things to do with their time and we don’t have to make criminals out of college students or adults who aren’t committing any other crimes.”
Assembly Bill 2842 has bipartisan support and is expected to pass the State Assembly, but it is uncertain if the governor would allow the matter to be decided by voters.
Despite the results of a 2013 poll by Lake Research Partners which found over 59 percent of New Jersey voters support legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has repeatedly stated that he would veto any bill that authorized the decriminalization or legalization of marijuana in the Garden State.
New Jersey does not allow for conventional ballot initiatives like Colorado or Washington, where petitions can be collected by citizens, submitted and verified in order to put a measure on the ballot.
New Jersey requires the legislature first pass the bill, which then must be signed by the Governor in order to be placed before voters.
The Daily Chronic contacted the office of Governor Chris Christie but they were unable to comment on the bill.
The complete bill can be found here.