Although a New Jersey measure aimed at decriminalizing marijuana has just advanced another step in the legislative process, Governor Christie has announced that he will ultimately veto the measure.
This set of legislation, which would mitigate possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana by rendering it a civil penalty instead of a criminal penalty, was unanimously approved in the State Assembly Judiciary Committee a month ago. The measure then gained more ground by progressing through the General State Assembly on a 44-30 vote this past Monday.
Like other advocates, the bill’s primary sponsor, Democrat Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, argued that criminal enforcement of marijuana possession racks up heavy legal costs for the state in addition to the multiple financial and social costs.
The Republican governor has, nonetheless, lit up with criticism against the bill, arguing that its enactment may merely serve to normalize marijuana use for younger generations. Christie further echoed concerns that relaxing legislation in regards to marijuana may eventually lead to its complete legalization.
In a town hall meeting in Readington, the former chief federal law enforcement officer further announced his plans for “a strict state medical marijuana program” as well as his support for “a statewide mandatory drug court program for non-violent, drug-dependent offenders.” To date, only a handful of New Jersey medical marijuana facilities have been founded, though, none are operational as of yet.
Christie’s firm opposition to the measure comes as a stark contrast to the majority of New Jersey. According to an Eagleton poll in November 2011, 58% of New Jersey residents agree that penalties for marijuana possession must be reduced.
The bill will next be delivered to the Senate, which is set to vote sometime in the fall.