Anyone with a New Jersey cannabis conviction could be in for good news if state lawmakers decide to enact criminal justice reforms suggested by Gov. Phil Murphy.
Murphy, a Democrat, late last week vetoed parts of Senate Bill 3205, which would have cleared a path to expungement of certain non-violent criminal cannabis charges. He argued the measure didn’t go far enough.
“I applaud the sponsors’ commitment to social justice, and their efforts to correct historic wrongs inflicted on our communities by a criminal justice system that has at times unfairly, and harshly punished individuals,” Murphy said in his statement. “I believe this bill can go further for the cause of justice.”
Murphy instead recommended the Senate consider an updated version that would expunge records automatically, removing barriers such as legal fees and filing complicated court documents.
His modified proposal would also automatically seal the records of individuals with low-level cannabis charges—which the state defines as possession of less than 50 grams, or distribution of less than an ounce—as a stopgap measure while they wait for expungement to take effect.
Civil rights advocates are cheering the move as a sensible response to America’s shifting views on cannabis.