New Jersey Assembly Votes to Decriminalize Marijuana

On Thursday June 18, 2020, the New Jersey Assembly voted to decriminalize marijuana. The bill would make up to two ounces of marijuana punishable by a $50 fine and eliminate the possibility of jail time.

Authored By: Patrick McKnight

Patrick McKnight

June 21, 2020

 

Possession for amounts between two ounces and one pound could be punishable by up to $1,000 in fines or six months in jailtime. The proposal cleared the lower house of the New Jersey legislature by a 63-10 majority. The Garden State is scheduled for a statewide referendum to legalize marijuana in November.

The bill, A1897, would mandate a “legal presumption” that possession of up to two ounces “is the authorized possession of medical cannabis or a medical cannabis product” under New Jersey law. Notably, the proposal also calls for “virtual expungements.” These expungements would apply to penalties reduced under the bill and would be available “without need to petition a court for an expungement order granting such result.”

Plans to bring an adult-use legalization bill for a vote were scrapped in late 2019 in favor of a November 2020 referendum. A1897 will now proceed to the state senate for approval before going to the Governor’s desk for signature. The New Jersey Senate introduced its own decriminalization which would remove criminal penalties for up to one pound. This bill has not come up for a vote and remains in committee.

Polls suggest 61% of New Jersey voters plan to support the ballot measure in November.

On the same day as the historic vote, cannabis reform also won an important victory on the other side of the Delaware River. In Gass v. 52nd Judicial District, Lebanon County, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled that a county’s probation policy banning cannabis use could not coexist with immunities provided to patients under the Medical Marijuana Act. The court heard the case under its King’s Bench jurisdiction.

“We are cognizant of the district’s concerns that medical marijuana use by probationers may, in fact, cause difficulties with court supervision and treatment,” Chief Justice Thomas Saylor said. “Nevertheless, ‘[w]here the language of the governing statute is clear (or clear enough) … the solution is legislative — and not judicial — adjustment.’”

The case involved three people who were allegedly forced to stop using medical marijuana under Lebanon County’s policy for individuals under court supervision.

 

Author Patrick McKnight is an Associate in the Litigation Department of Klehr Harrison in Philadelphia, PA.

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