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New Jersey

  • by NORML November 26, 2018

    Senate and Assembly lawmakers voted on Monday, November 26, in favor of legislation that seeks to regulate the adult use marijuana market.

    Members of a 26-member joint committee decided to move forward the legislation: Senate Bill 2703 and Assembly Bill 4497: The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory and Expungement Aid Modernization Act. Lawmakers will engage in further debate on the measure prior to voting on the bill on the floor.

    “Today’s Senate and Assembly votes are a victory for common sense and for sound public policy in New Jersey. We look forward to lawmakers on the Assembly and Senate floors acting swiftly to approve this legislation to send to Governor Murphy to sign into law.” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri, “New Jersey holds the dubious distinction of ranking second in the nation in per capita annual marijuana arrests. This policy disproportionately impacts young people of color, violates civil liberties, and is an egregious waste of public resources that can be reprioritized elsewhere. The people of New Jersey are ready to move forward. Their representatives should approve this legislation this year and replace the failed practice of prohibition with the sensible policy of legalization and regulation.”

    Key provisions of the initial drafts of the legislation are available here.

    Governor Phil Murphy campaigned on a platform that includes legalizing the adult use marijuana market in New Jersey, stating: “Decriminalization alone will not put the corner dealer out of business, it will not help us protect our kids, and it will not end the racial disparities we see. If these are our goals – as they must be – then the only sensible option is the careful legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana sales to adults.

    Fifty-eight percent of voters support “completely legalizing the possession and personal use of recreational marijuana,” and 79 percent support “allowing an individual to clear their record” of a past marijuana possession conviction,” according to an October 2018 Rutgers-Eagleton poll.

  • by NORML August 22, 2018

    Legalize MarijuanaNearly two-thirds of New Jersey voters support legalizing the adult use of marijuana and expunging past criminal convictions associated with the substance, according to statewide polling data released today by Quinnipiac University.

    Sixty-two percent of voters say that they support allowing adults “to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.” Support is strongest among voters ages 18 to 34 years of age (90 percent) and Democrats (78 percent). Support was weakest among Republicans (41 percent) and those voters over the age of 65 (46 percent).

    “New Jersey legislators must support the will of their constituents and approve legislation to legalize and regulate adult marijuana use in New Jersey,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri.

    He added: “New Jersey holds the dubious distinction of ranking second in the nation in per capita annual marijuana arrests. This policy disproportionately impacts young people of color, violates civil liberties, and is an egregious waste of public resources that can be reprioritized elsewhere. The people of New Jersey are ready to end this failed prohibition and move toward the sensible policy of legalization and regulation. State lawmakers should not make them wait any longer.”

    Sixty-three percent of voters also say that they support “erasing criminal records for marijuana possession.” Once again, those voters ages 34 and younger were most supportive of the changes (81 percent), as were Democrats (74 percent).

    The new polling data comes just days after Senate President Steve Sweeney publicly announced that leadership has likely secured sufficient support in both chambers to pass an adult use legalization reform act.

    Governor Phil Murphy campaigned on a pledge to reform the state’s marijuana policies, and yesterday reiterated his hopes to sign legislative reforms by the end of this year. In his spring budget address, Gov. Murphy said: “Legalization will allow us to reinvest directly in our communities – especially the urban neighborhoods hardest hit by the misguided war on drugs – in their economic development, in health care and housing, child care and after-school programs, and other critical areas. …. [F]rom the standpoint of social justice, and from the standpoint of protecting our kids and lifting up our communities, I could not arrive at any other conclusion.”

    In July, the state’s Attorney General has called on county and municipal prosecutors to suspend marijuana-related prosecutions until early September.

  • by NORML March 13, 2018

    Legalize marijuanaDuring a budget address on Tuesday, March 13th, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy doubled down on his commitment to legalize marijuana in the Garden State this year.

    A budget overview document released in tandem with his address states that “this Administration plans to legalize adult-use marijuana by January 1, 2019. The State will also move forward with expanding access to medical marijuana to alleviate patient suffering. Governor Murphy is ready to end the cycle of non-violent, low-level drug offenses holding individuals back.”

    Governor Murphy campaigned heavily on a pledge to legalize marijuana and today’s address makes clear he continues to push forward on his promise. Recently, some legalization opponents have begun to push for a watered down version of decriminalization as a way to derail the fight for full legalization and regulation. Governor Murphy was having none of it.

    “Decriminalization alone will not put the corner dealer out of business, it will not help us protect our kids, and it will not end the racial disparities we see. If these are our goals – as they must be – then the only sensible option is the careful legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana sales to adults,” stated Murphy during his budget address.

    In addition to advocating for full legalization, Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy has already began a process to expand the state’s struggling medical marijuana program. In January, he signed an executive order calling on regulators to review the state’s eight-year-old medical cannabis access program and to recommend ways to increase participation from patients and physicians.

    “Our goal is to modernize the program in New Jersey, bring it up to current standards, and put patients first,” he said.

    IF YOU LIVE IN NEW JERSEY, CLICK HERE TO QUICKLY AND EASILY WRITE YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS IN SUPPORT OF LEGALIZATION.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director January 24, 2018

    Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order on Tuesday calling on state regulators to review the state’s eight-year-old medical cannabis access program and to recommend ways to increase participation from patients and physicians.

    “Our goal is to modernize the program in New Jersey, bring it up to current standards, and put patients first,” he said.

    The Governor’s order mandates state Department of Health and the Board of Medical Examiners to submit recommendations within 60 days on ways to improve the program.

    Presently, only five dispensaries statewide are licensed to service an estimated 15,000 patients. Compared to other medical cannabis access states, New Jersey possesses among the lowest rates of participation among eligible patients and doctors. Retail costs for medical cannabis products are also among the highest in the nation.

    If you reside in New Jersey, you can urge regulators to take actions to improve the state’s medical cannabis law by clicking here.

    Former Republican Gov. Chris Christie routinely voiced his disapproval for the program, which was signed into law by his predecessor Jon Corzine, and he pushed for various rules and regulations to both delay and limit its implementation.

    While campaigning for Governor, Murphy pledged to reform the state’s marijuana policies, and spoke in favor of legalizing adult marijuana use.

    Again, if you live in New Jersey, take time today to tell regulators to put the interests of New Jersey’s patients first!

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director November 7, 2017

    voteIt is once again election night in America. While 2017 doesn’t feature any statewide marijuana initiatives, there are still a number of races to watch tonight that will impact marijuana law reform efforts across the nation.

    Virginia Governor

    Lt. Governor Ralph Northam (D): Democratic candidate, and current Lt. Governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam has been outspoken in his support for ending criminal penalties for marijuana. Earlier this year, Northam published a letter calling for decriminalization and an expanded medical marijuana program.

    Northam wrote: “We need to change sentencing laws that disproportionately hurt people of color. One of the best ways to do this is to decriminalize marijuana. African Americans are 2.8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Virginia. The Commonwealth spends more than $67 million on marijuana enforcement?—?money that could be better spent on rehabilitation.

    As a doctor, I’m becoming increasingly convinced by the data showing potential health benefits of marijuana, such as pain relief, drug-resistant epilepsy, and treatment for PTSD. By decriminalizing it, our researchers can better study the plant so doctors can more effectively prescribe drugs made from it.”

    Ed Gillespie (R): Republican candidate, and former Republican National Committee Chair, Ed Gillespie has stated he does not support the legalization or outright decriminalization of marijuana believing it “sends the wrong signal” to children.

    Gillespie does support a very limited change to Virginia’s marijuana laws, that would move possession to a three strike system – dropping the possibility of jail time for an individual’s first two marijuana possession arrests, but retaining it for the third.

    CLICK HERE TO CHECK YOUR VA VOTER REGISTRATION AND FIND YOUR POLLING PLACE

     

    New Jersey Governor

    Phil Murphy (D): Democratic candidate Phil Murphy has made marijuana legalization a priority issue in his campaign. In addition to publicly campaigning in support of ending marijuana prohibition in the state, in his primary election victory speech Murphy said he wants a bill that would legalize and regulate marijuana in the Garden State on his desk within the first 100 days of taking office.

    “The criminalization of marijuana has only served to clog our courts and cloud people’s futures, so we will legalize marijuana,” Phil Murphy said the night he won the Democratic primary. “And while there are financial benefits, this is overwhelmingly about doing what is right and just.

    Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno (R): Republican candidate, and current Lt. Governor, Kim Guadagno has stated that she is “wholly opposed to legalizing marijuana” citing inaccurate information in regards to marijuana’s impact on driving.

    “I have personal experience about what exactly happens to somebody who drives while they’re high, which is why I would oppose legalization of marijuana,” Guadagno said during a debate during the Republican primary.

    During the general election, she further stated her opposition, saying she believed legalization would “put a whole generation of children at risk.”

    “I don’t want our children, I don’t want our people to walk down the street and buy a pack of cigarettes and be drug dealers.”

    Despite her opposition to legalization, Guadagno has stated she would support decriminalization of possession and limited expansion of the state’s existing medical marijuana program.

    CLICK HERE TO CHECK YOUR NJ VOTER REGISTRATION AND FIND YOUR POLLING PLACE

     

    Athens, OH: Athens Cannabis Ordinance

    Residents of Athens, Ohio will have the ability to vote on the “Athens Cannabis Ordinance” which would significantly reform many of the penalties around marijuana possession and cultivation in the city. The ordinance would drop the fine for the following offenses to $0, effectively removing any criminal or civil punishment:

    • Possession of up to 200 grams of marijuana and up to 10 grams of hash
    • Cultivation of up to 200 grams of marijuana
    • Gifts of up to 20 grams of marijuana
    • Possession and sale of paraphernalia

    CLICK HERE TO CHECK YOUR ATHENS, OH VOTER REGISTRATION AND FIND YOUR POLLING PLACE

     

    Atlanta Mayor (Note: If none of the candidates in tonight’s election receive more than 50% of the vote, there will be a run-off election this winter between the top two vote getters. Atlanta’s mayoral race is also non-partisan.)

    During the debate surrounding the now approved decriminalization bill in Atlanta, news outlet the AtlantaLoop got a majority of the mayoral candidates on record in regards to their views on marijuana penalties. The incoming mayor will oversee the implementation of this ordinance so it is important to have a supportive incoming mayor in power in 2018.

    Peter Aman, former Atlanta COO: “I support the deprioritization of marijuana enforcement and will work with the courts and the police department and community to examine a procedure focused on fines, rather than jail time. Criminal justice reform is not just a buzzword. It is a thoughtful approach to finding ways to ensure citizens do not carry a lifelong burden for instances that do not cause harm to the public. Equally important, deprioritization is a cost-saving measure on the courts and the public safety budget. It allows our officers to focus on crime fighting and keeping our communities safe.

    Also, I firmly believe, and research shows, marijuana use has clear impacts on the brain development of children and young adults. In addition to, or in lieu of other penalties, I will ask the courts to examine requiring individuals below a certain age to attend an educational course on the cognitive impacts of marijuana and to help them make informed choices in how, when, and where they use such a substance – as we do in case of abuse of alcohol use.”

    Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves: “It is high time that Atlanta City Council members and Mayor Kasim Reed stop talking, and start doing something on the issue of decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana. Generally, that means these offenses are treated like a minor traffic violation: no arrest, prison time, or criminal record for a first-time possession.

    Unlike my opponents who have sat on their hands while our young people suffer, I have a track record of actually doing something about issues like this one. For example, as Fulton County Chairman, I pushed through the first-ever expungement program, to give people a second chance after arrests for minor offenses— including those never prosecuted. I also championed the successful Fulton County diversion program that has seen our jail population decrease and our recidivism rate drop dramatically.

    As a long-standing criminal justice, youth diversion and expungement advocate, my main concern is that for small amounts of marijuana possession, a person can have a criminal record that follows them for the rest of their life. While we must be for law and order, we also must be fair. That means using best practices based on other local government experiences. For example, the Clarkston City Council, voted unanimously last year to reduce the fine from up to $1,000 to $75 for possessing less than an ounce, and eliminating the possibility of jail time. In the nation’s capital city of Washington, D.C., voters approved decriminalization for people over the age of 21.

    For a city as diverse as Atlanta, a decriminalization ordinance in this direction makes sense.

    As Atlanta’s next mayor, I will continue to make juvenile justice a top priority and will work to provide laws that are fair to everyone, no matter their zip code.”

    State Sen. Vincent Fort: “I’m talking about a ticket, a citation, I’m talking about no mugshot, no arrest. A citation, go on your way, pay.  Anywhere from $25, $50 to $75.

    Two, I am very concerned that there’s this confusion, quote-unquote confusion issue.  I’ve heard some city council members and some candidates for mayor talk about how people from the outside of the city would come in and think that they could smoke dope and there’d be no consequences.  That is a red herring.  Then there are some other people who have said, ‘Oh I’m not going to have quote-unquote blood on my hands,’ by virtue of the fact that they say, ‘Well there’s a kid who thinks he can smoke dope anywhere, any way he wants and he gets arrested because the officer has discretion … and they’ll resist arrest and thus you know blood’ll be on the hands of anyone who supports this.’ That’s just crazy, it’s absolutely crazy. It’s unfortunate that elected officials would engage in such mendacity, intentionally trying to create confusion on the issues.

    … [I]f there are all these cities all over the country including in the South, that can decriminalize marijuana, if tiny Clarkston can do it, the city of Atlanta can do it. The fact of the matter is, the city council and the mayor have been in power, in place, as well as the Fulton County Commission has been in place for years and young African American males … have been pushed into the entryway for mass incarceration and they [officials] have done nothing. And now that they have the chance to do it, they’re abdicating their responsibility.”

    Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall: “It is a high priority for my administration to be able to roll out an effective and well-communicated marijuana declassification, so [people are not] not excessively penalized for possession of less than an ounce.”

    Atlanta City Councilwoman Mary Norwood: “I want a dialog with the police department as to the impact of changing the city’s ordinance and what does to offenders and whether or not … the state law would then apply.  What we need is an understanding from the police department as to the steps that occur now and the steps that would occur for their police officers on the street with offenders with the changes.”

    Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell: “When I was a child being raised in this city, the last thing my father wanted to do as a police officer was to destroy the lives of young people.

    The time and effort spent apprehending and sending people to jail for this minor offense would be of better use to law enforcement in their pursuit of dangerous criminals. When police officers spend time on these offenses, jail cells end up filled with non-violent offenders, while repeat and violent offenders often go free.

    Atlantans deserve to have a city that encourages kids to reach their potential, not one that embraces punishment for every misstep.

    While usage rates are roughly the same across different races, statistics show that African-Americans are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. For many Atlanta kids, it is a gateway to prison. We need to do everything we can to end a process that hurts our kids by serving as a fast track to incarceration”

    Two candidates, Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard and Atlanta City Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms, did not respond to AtlantaLoop’s request for comment. However, it is worth noting that both serve on the Atlanta City Council, which unanimously approved teh decriminalization measure earlier this year. You can view their full article here.

     

    CLICK HERE TO CHECK YOUR ATLANTA, GA VOTER REGISTRATION AND FIND YOUR POLLING PLACE

     

    Stay tuned…

    NORML will be covering the results of these elections throughout the evening on our blog and social media channels. Stay tuned for results and reactions later tonight.

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