Last week, Jersey City became the first New Jersey municipality to decriminalize low-level cannabis possession, but state officials immediately interceded to shut this new policy down. Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop and municipal prosecutor Jake Hudnut held a press conference last Thursday to announce that they were decriminalizing minor marijuana possession and use, effective immediately. The next day, NJ Attorney General Gurbir Grewal stepped in and announced that the new policy was void, as Hudnut did not have the legal authority to supercede state drug laws.
Hudnut sent a memo to his assistant prosecutors, advising them that five different cannabis crimes should no longer be considered criminal offenses. The prosecutor wrote that these crimes — minor possession, possession while in a motor vehicle, being under the influence, use or possession of drug paraphernalia, and loitering to buy or sell pot — should now be punished by either a fine of up to $50 or five hours of community service. Before this policy, any of these crimes could land an offender in jail for as long as six months.
"We feel that while New Jersey is having the conversation about legalization, it is unfair to continue to burden people with misdemeanors, or what New Jersey calls disorderly persons offense, convictions and the collateral consequences that come with those convictions," Hudnut said at the press conference, NJTV News reports. The prosecutor explained that anyone busted for these minor pot offenses was at risk of losing or being unable to obtain a student loan, a driver's license, a job, or housing. Even the most minor cannabis offenses can land an individual in prison with a longer sentence than many rapists or murderers receive.