While New Jersey struggles to open its first medical marijuana facilities later in the year, earlier this week, a State Assembly Judiciary Committee unanimously approved a bill that would substantially reduce the criminal penalty for the possession of marijuana.
If the bill passes, individuals convicted of possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana would be given a fine- $150 for the first offense, $200 for a second offense and $500 for a third. Current state penalties for those found guilty of possession include a six-month jail term and a $1,000 fine.
Advocates of the bill maintain that marijuana possession does not pose the same danger to society as other, more serious crimes. Many at the hearing offered support for the reform, claiming that small amounts of marijuana can damage young people’s prospects while burdening the state with hefty legal costs.
This is a common argument from supporters of marijuana decriminalization; that those convicted face many unseen consequences, such as difficulty finding housing or employment- all of which can lead to fewer taxable income for the state.
Nevertheless, some remain skeptical of the implications that marijuana decriminalization carries for younger generations. Bruce Hummer of the New Jersey Prevention Network stated that there is a risk of normalizing the drug’s use among teenagers if the bill is passed. On the other hand, retired state corrections officer Harry Camisa explained that the trauma and abuse teenagers experience in prison are further indications that marijuana possession simply does not merit jail time.
The bill now needs to be forwarded to the full Assembly. Governor Christie has refused to comment on the proposal until it moves further in the legislative process.
Read more at NJ.com
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