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By LeeWEpstein

July 6, 2020

 

In mid-June, New Jersey MPs voted to decriminalize cannabis in their state.

The State Assembly voted by 63 votes to 10, with 5 abstentions, in favor of measure A1897, one of the two cannabis decriminalization projects currently proposed to the State legislature. The bill seeks to replace arrests for possession of up to 2 ounces (56 grams) of cannabis with a $50 fine, and also reduces prison sentences and fines for possession of larger amounts of cannabis.

The other bill, which would decriminalize up to 1 pound (450g) of cannabis, was introduced in the State Senate in early June. Neither bill would legalize cannabis, a proposal that could be put to a vote in November as part of a popular initiative.

In 2019, New Jersey had failed to legalize cannabis due to a lack of support and had already announced its intention to continue legalization efforts in 2020.

Cannabis and justice in New Jersey

These bills were introduced in the legislature shortly after mass protests against police violence around the world. Police in New Jersey, Texas, and New York make more cannabis arrests than any other state, and blacks are arrested more than three times as often as whites.

Knowing these disparities is not enough to eliminate them. Only through legalization based on racial and social justice can we begin to correct this wrong,” said Amol Sinha, executive director of the ACLU in New Jersey, in a statement issued earlier this year. “We need the voters of New Jersey to approve legalization, and we need the legislation that enacts it to put racial and social justice at the center of the agenda.

The two decriminalization bills have yet to be passed by the Senate before they go to the governor’s office. Although the Senate has a Democratic majority, a similar bill was passed in 2012 but never became law. Nevertheless, Governor Phil Murphy and Senate Speaker Stephen Sweeney recently declared that they are ready for decriminalization to stop false arrests.

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