Almost all arrests for possession of marijuana would be eliminated in New Jersey if a new bill is adopted by the state legislature.
The bill would not legalize marijuana — that decision is being left to the voters on Nov. 3. But the new legislation seeks to reduce cannabis users’ encounters with police.
“New Jersey is ready to vote yes on recreational marijuana," said the bill’s sponsor, State Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz (D., Essex). “But until we get that up and running, we shouldn’t have laws in place that create obstacles for people, particularly for communities of color. This is important at any moment in time, but especially now.”
The decriminalization bill (S2535) would allow the possession of up to a pound of marijuana without the threat of arrest. A first offender would receive a written warning. Subsequent offenses would result in a $25 fine.
Currently, the penalty for possessing 50 grams or less is a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail.
Police would be forbidden from using the odor of marijuana as “probable cause” for a traffic stop. The bill also would provide for the immediate expungement of marijuana offenses from criminal records. It would remove penalties for possessing weed paraphernalia such as pipes and bongs.