New Jersey Voters Will Decide Whether to Decriminalize Recreational Use of Marijuana in 2020
Close to one million people have been arrested on marijuana-related charges in New Jersey since 1990, reflecting one of the highest marijuana-related arrested rates in the country. The state also has one of the most burdensome expungement processes as well. However, in December, New Jersey lawmakers officially placed a ballot question referendum to legalize recreational marijuana on the state November 2020 ballot, passing it by more than three-fifths majorities in both chambers (and thus allowing it onto the ballot without being subject to a second vote). Specifically, the ballot question will ask voters if they approve the recreational use of cannabis for adults aged 21 and older, while subjecting all sales of the substance and its products to the state sales tax (with allowances for town ordinances to go farther in adding local taxes if they wish). If it is approved in November, it will kick off a regulatory process before officially becoming legal in the state.
Unfortunately, the ballot question does not come with the possibility of paving the way for a reformed system that allows for records that include low-level marijuana convictions to be cleared. This also means that it is essentially up to lawmakers to address the social justice concerns of certain racial communities being disproportionately targeted for marijuana-related arrests. According to some statistics, 600 people – most of color – are arrested in New Jersey every week for low-level drug offenses. That’s someone being arrested every 15 minutes, and it only appears to be increasing each year.
Another Expungement Bill Passed to Governor Murphy
That is exactly what the legislature attempted to do in December: The state Legislature voted to pass an expungement bill, which now goes to Governor Murphy, who must sign it before it can become law. Specifically, the bill expunges marijuana offenses for possession of up to five pounds of marijuana and allocates $15 million for social justice-related improvements.
While Murphy has previously vetoed expungement bills, he also indicated that he would support a measure that establishes an automated process to clear convictions and records, as well as an e-filing system that allows for fees to be eliminated.
Relief Before 2020
Still, a number of consumers in New Jersey have called on some relief measure to be passed prior to the 2020 ballot measure in order to prevent the hundreds of arrested each week for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The decriminalization process would require no arrests, custody, jail, treatment, or record, and instead involve the issuance of a small fine.
Contact Our New Jersey Drug Crime Defense Attorneys with Any Questions or Concerns
If you or a loved one has been accused of a drug offense here in New Jersey, or you have a question about the legalization of marijuana in the state, contact our experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorneys at the office of Phillip J. Murphy today to find out more about our background and services.