New Jersey Taking Steps To Decriminalize Weed

Next week, for the first time ever, the New Jersey Legislature will hold a hearing about a bill that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. 

In New York, marijuana possession was decriminalized in the 1970s

New Jersey Assembly Bill 1465 would make possession of up to a half-ounce of weed a summary offense that's about as serious a crime as a parking ticket. Currently, possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor in New Jersey, and can carry a punishment of up to a $1000 fine and six months in jail. You can also get hit with additional fines up to $600.

According to a 2011 Eagleton poll, 58-percent of New Jersey resident think penalties for marijuana use should be reduced. Additionally, 55-percent think penalties for marijuana possession should be eliminated altogether. Under the proposed law, the possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana would be a summary offense, punishable by a fine of $150 for a first violation, $200 for a second violation and $500 for a third.

Weed fans consider the legislation to be "a common sense measure that is long overdue."

"More than 22,000 individuals were arrested for marijuana possession in New Jersey in 2010," Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, says. "This is a waste of law enforcement resources and taxpayer money. And a marijuana conviction can have tragic long-term consequences for individuals. People may lose jobs or be unable to secure employment because of a criminal record. Students who incur a marijuana conviction can lose their student loans. The punishment doesn't fit the offense and New Jerseyans agree it should be changed."

The hearing is scheduled for May 21 at 10 a.m. in front of the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

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