Recently, the New Jersey Assembly voted to forward a bill to the full legislative chamber that would decriminalize possession of up to one half of an ounce of marijuana.
The bill is advancing with bipartisan support and has the potential to reshape the landscape of drug-related offenses in New Jersey.
Currently, if you are caught possessing 50 grams of marijuana or less you can be guilty of a disorderly persons offense, which means you could face up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine.
However, the bill would change this by making possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana only a civil infraction that carries a $150 fine for the first offense, $200 fine for a second offense, and $500 fine for all subsequent offenses.
Additionally, those who violate the law three or more times would be referred to a drug education program and youths under the age of 18 who violate it would be referred to Family Court.
Moreover, possession of drug-related paraphernalia for personal use of 15 grams or less would be completely decriminalized, and, instead, would only carry a civil penalty of $100.
The new law would entirely repeal the disorderly persons offenses for being under the influence of marijuana and failing to voluntarily deliver an amount under 15 grams to the nearest law enforcement officer.
Also, individuals found driving while in possession of less than 15 grams of marijuana would have to forfeit their driving privileges for two years and pay a $50 fine. However, in a case of “extreme hardship,” judges could waive the civil penalty.
The bill, A-1465, is being sponsored by 18 NJ legislators, 15 Democrats and 3 Republicans. In addition to the 3 Republican sponsors, many more are in favor of the bill.
This proposed law comes off the heels of Governor Christie announcing his support for mandatory drug treatment for non-violent offenders.
As of yet, the Governor has not commented on whether he supports the bill. However, the ultimate passage of it hinges on his decision to sign or veto it.