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New Jersey Lawmakers Consider Decriminalization Efforts

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Yesterday, reported the developing story in New York pertaining to medical marijuana.  It appeared that New York may in fact be following the lead of its neighboring states New Jersey and Connecticut.  Now it appears, that New Jersey may be playing copycat with New York when it comes to marijuana decriminalization efforts.

We have frequently mentioned all of the momentum in the northeast for marijuana reform.  Fortunately, there have been constant and positive updates for advocates of reform.  Yesterday several news outlets reported that some New Jersey lawmakers are proposing legislation that would decriminalize low level marijuana possession.  Currently, 50 grams or less can carry a sentence of 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.  The proposed measure would penalize marijuana possession similar to how New York does, with a civil citation ticket.  This helps to ensure that a small level marijuana possession charge would not have an impact on the rest of a person’s life.

The newly proposed law comes at a time where New Jersey, like every state, could benefit substantially from the savings decriminalization efforts provide.  Jails are filled with those incarcerated for possessing a harmless plant as tax revenues can certainly be better used elsewhere.  As the popular HBO show depicts, New Jersey knows firsthand the long term damage that prohibition can have.  Alcohol prohibition launched a crime syndicate on the Atlantic City boardwalk.  Now the potential for crime and large scale distribution of another banned substance is hurting New Jersey again.  However, it is the youth, specifically in the minority community where the ultimate price will be paid. So many futures are ripped away by a frivolous charge for possessing a small amount of marijuana.

Although the entire west coast has legalized medical marijuana, new developments in the northeast seem to be making the region emerge as a safe haven for patients.  Northeast states also seem to be considering a change of heart when it comes to jailing its youth.  Even New York City’s controversial “stop and frisk” program has come under fire.  With medical marijuana on the horizon and the possibility for decriminalization efforts, New Jersey is poised to become one of the most progressives areas for marijuana reform.  However, no one is certain as to how Governor Christie will react to a decriminalization bill as he has demonstrated his opposition to the states medical marijuana program previously.  However, as residents of the garden state grow weary from watching their loved ones suffer, their children going to prison, and their hard earned tax dollars being wasted,  the Governor’s hand may be forced.  It may be time for New Jersey to utilize a new approach as they can ill afford another Boardwalk Empire.

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