NJ Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Assembly Vote 6/25/12
Posted by NORML NJ on Wednesday, June 20, 2012
On Monday, June 25th, the New Jersey Assembly will vote on Assembly Bill 1465, which would make possession of one-half ounce, or 15 grams, of marijuana a summary offense similar to a parking ticket with fines ranging from $150-$500. The voting session is scheduled to begin at 1pm.
Currently, possession of this amount of marijuana carries a penalty of up to a $1000 fine and six months in jail. A conviction also results in a criminal record that cannot be expunged for at least five years.
A November 2011 Eagleton poll found that 58 percent of New Jerseyans think penalties for the use of marijuana should be decreased and 55 percent believe that penalties for possession of marijuana should be eliminated entirely.
More than 22,000 individuals were arrested for marijuana possession in New Jersey in 2010. This is a waste of law enforcement resources and taxpayer money. And a marijuana conviction can have tragic long-term consequences for individuals. People may lose jobs or be unable to secure employment because of a criminal record. Students who incur a marijuana conviction can lose their student loans. The punishment doesn’t fit the offense and New Jerseyans agree it should be changed.
Please take a moment to call or email your Assemblyperson and tell them you support Assembly Bill 1465. You can find your Assemblyperson and their contact information at: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/members/abcroster.asp
For your convenience, I have included some stats and talking points on the bill below my signature to better assist you in drafting your remarks. There is bi-partisan support for this legislation with an impressive list of 18 sponsors, here is a link to the text of the bill: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2012/Bills/A1500/1465_I1.HTM
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TALKING POINTS & STATISTICS:
- More than 22,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession in New Jersey in 2010, up from approximately 20,000 in 2006.
- Although whites and blacks consume marijuana at equal rates, African-Americans are twice as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.
- In 2010, there were 853,838 marijuana arrests in the United States—one every 37 seconds. Almost 90 percent of these arrests were for simple possession, not distribution or manufacture.
- Under Assembly Bill 1465, the possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana would be a summary offense, punishable by a fine of $100 for a first violation, $250 for a second violation and $500 for a third. Currently, possession of this amount is a disorderly persons offense that carries a penalty of up to a $1000 fine and six months in jail. Additional fines of more than $600 may also be imposed under the existing statute. A conviction also results in a criminal record that cannot be expunged for at least five years.
- More than 22,000 individuals were arrested for marijuana possession in New Jersey in 2012. This is a waste of law enforcement resources and taxpayer money. And a marijuana conviction can have tragic long-term consequences for individuals. People may lose jobs or be unable to secure employment because of a criminal record. Students who incur a marijuana conviction can lose their student loans. The punishment doesn’t fit the offense.
- Nearly 50 percent of Americans admit to having tried marijuana at some point in their lives, making it the most widely used illicit substance in the United States. The vast majority of these people never progress to addiction or the use of serious drugs—in fact, less than 10 percent of those who try marijuana will ever develop a substance use disorder.
- Tragically, although statistics show that people of all races consume marijuana at the same rates, poor people of color overwhelmingly suffer the criminal consequences. In New Jersey, African-Americans are arrested for marijuana possession in grossly disproportionate numbers, especially those living in socially and economically marginalized communities. For example, in Essex County, blacks make up approximately 40 percent of the total population and 70 percent of the arrests for marijuana possession. In Camden County, nearly 40 percent of marijuana arrestees are African-American, yet they only represent 20 percent of the area’s total population.
- Once an individual is convicted of even a minor possession offense, he or she is subject to a system of legal discrimination that makes it difficult or impossible to secure housing, employment, public assistance, federal student aid for higher education, and even a basic driver’s license. Absent a conviction, the collateral consequences of a mere arrest can include immeasurable stigma and emotional humiliation, the sometimes unmanageable financial burden of posting bail and hiring a lawyer, and lost hours at work or school.
- Assembly Bill 1465 is sponsored by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Hunterdon and Mercer), Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R-Morris and Somerset), Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Hunterdon and Mercer), Assemblyman L. Grace Spencer (D-Essex), Assemblyman Peter Barnes (D-Middlesex), Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), Assemblyman Albert Coutinho (D-Essex), Assemblywoman Cleopatra G. Tucker (D-Essex), Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Essex), Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (D-Monmouth), Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex), Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Middlesex, Somerset and Union), Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Burlington and Camden), Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen), Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-Essex and Morris), Assemblyman Ruben Ramos (D-Hudson), Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex), and Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande (R-Monmouth).