New Jersey officially has its first city with decriminalized marijuana. Jersey City launched a new set of policies related to marijuana. Under the new rules, possession of marijuana has now been decriminalized. The change comes as New Jersey prepares to greatly expand its medical marijuana program.
Jersey City’s New Policy
Jersey City’s new policies went into full effect yesterday. As a result, the city will begin following a dramatically different approach to cannabis laws.
The biggest change is that marijuana possession in Jersey City will no longer be a serious criminal offense. According to local news sources, almost all marijuana offenses will now be downgraded.
In particular, possession charges will now be filed as a simple violation of a local ordinance. That means that offenders will likely receive only a citation. Similarly, it also means that such charges will not go on a person’s criminal record.
City officials hope the change will introduce several important outcomes. First and foremost, many said it was a step to address inequalities in the way marijuana laws are enforced. In particular, racial inequalities.
Marijuana laws are consistently used to target people and communities and color. For example, studies have found that even though white and black people consume marijuana at the same rate, black folks are far more likely to be arrested, convicted, and imprisoned for it.
As a result, cannabis laws end up harming people of color far more than white people. Now, Jersey City officials hope that the city’s new changes will help reduce these negative effects.
Additionally, authorities said the changes could decrease the financial burden of enforcing older laws. According to local sources, the state of New Jersey sees more than 25,000 marijuana-related arrests every year.
The costs of all these arrests reportedly adds up to more than $1 billion per decade. Many leaders in Jersey City and throughout the state said they hope that decriminalization will help cut back on these costs.
Attorney General Says Jersey City’s Decriminalization Is ‘Void’
In a letter to Jersey City Prosecutor Jake Hudnut, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal stated that the municipality wasn’t authorized to “decriminalize marijuana or otherwise refuse to criminally prosecute all marijuana-related offenses in the municipal courts of Jersey City,” wrote Grewal.
Mayor Steven Fulop responded by saying that the city “respects the letter” but they don’t agree that they don’t have the authority to decriminalize cannabis.
Jersey City Decriminalizes Marijuana Before Other Municipalities
Unless the policy is reversed, Jersey City is the first municipality in New Jersey to officially decriminalize marijuana. There are likely going to many more changes throughout the state.
In particular, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy recently announced plans to expand the state’s medical marijuana program.
Under these plans, the state would bump up the number of medical marijuana dispensaries from six to 12. Similarly, Gov. Murphy proposed adding to the list of qualifying health conditions.
Making weed even more accessible, the expansion makes it more affordable for patients to enroll in the program. Finally, Gov. Murphy proposed increasing the limits on how much medication patients can possess.
On top of all this, Gov. Murphy has talked a lot about changing the state’s recreational laws. Before taking office, he said he would address the topic within the first 100 days of his tenure.
That deadline has already passed. But he still plans on making changes. As recently as March, Gov. Murphy said he wanted to make marijuana legal by the end of 2018.
In this context, Jersey City could be setting a new trend in the state. In the meantime, it remains to be seen if Gov. Murphy will successfully follow through on his promise to legalize marijuana.