July 26, 2018, New Jersey
In a momentous announcement, the New Jersey Attorney General has directed every municipal prosecutor to put off the hearings of all cannabis-related cases till September 4. The state’s attorney general hasn’t set an arbitrary duration for the adjournment of marijuana court cases. The given date coincides with the state’s Senate session where lawmakers will consider the legalization of adult-use cannabis.
According to experts with a keen eye for the local law and order landscape, the decision will benefit thousands of New Jerseyans who have to go through criminal persecution every year in municipal courts because of minor cannabis crimes. The announcement is also a telltale indication that the Garden State is moving towards decriminalization of marijuana, even if the legalization is not on the cards.
The ongoing development on the front of marijuana is very much driven by the efforts of the Governor and newly incumbent attorney general. Before Phil Murphy assumed the governor office, things were not as buoyant for cannabis advocates in New Jersey. The former governor Chris Christie was known to belong to Jeff Sessions school of thought when it comes to cannabis. He vetoed several cannabis-related reform bills during his tenure. The incumbent Murphy promised cannabis reforms during his gubernatorial campaign and now it looks like he is making efforts to deliver on his promises.
This is the reason why Gov. Murphy was standing next to the attorney general during the announcement of adjournment. As per law experts, this provisional period will be used to devise new directives for state and municipal prosecutors.
It is important to note that minor cannabis cases have become a reason for an unnecessary burden on law enforcement agencies and prosecutors both. During the Christie administration, the state has made a record of cannabis-related arrests. In 2016, more than 36,000 arrests were made in connection with cannabis. More than 80 percent of these arrests entailed minor amounts of cannabis possession.
Crime data from the FBI also indicates that the state has second highest cannabis arrest rates in the entire country. The state experienced the largest hike in marijuana arrests in between 2015 and 2016. So, with the exit of the anti-cannabis governor from the office, some local prosecutors tried to change their approach towards cannabis-related cases. For instance, Jake Hudnut, a municipal prosecutor aired the thought that his office would consider to relegate cannabis charges to a non-criminal offense. In simple words, Hudnut suggested that his office might decriminalize cannabis.
However, the attorney general asked Hudnut to not materialize the decriminalization because it was not the prerogative of municipal prosecutors. On the other hand, New Jersey City mayor backed the Hudnut’s decision. This deadlock eventually has been ironed out with the announcement of the attorney general to adjourn all the cannabis cases pending in municipal courts.
All the recent developments indicate one thing i.e. the prospects of cannabis are bright in New Jersey. With the Governor who strongly believe in marijuana reforms and the attorney general who is not hell-bent on the issue, it will rather be easy for lawmakers and advocates to push for more libertarian cannabis policy.
Marijuana stays in the news, and Alice is always ready to keep us updated. A world traveler and lover of freedom, Alice knows what is going on, no matter where she roams. She specializes in marijuana legalization stories across the globe, with up to date... [read more]