On Monday, a New Jersey assembly panel will hear a marijuana decriminalization bill that would have minor marijuana offenses treated similarly to parking violations.
There are eighteen sponsors to the bill, including 3 Republicans. Under the bill, people could possess up to one half ounce or less of marijuana without facing arrest. Instead, they would just be fined for the possession. This would be a big difference from the states current minor possession laws, which make minor marijuana possession a misdemeanor that is punishable by up to $1,000 in fines, 6 months in jail, and a criminal record that is not able to be expunged for at least 5 years.
By keeping low level drug offenders out of jail, the state stands to save a good deal of money. As a precursor to this bill, Governor Chris Christie has placed an emphasis upon drug treatment for low-level offenders.
According to Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, “We are sick and tired of paying for criminal prosecutions for people with a small amount of marijuana. It’s time to step back and take a look at alternatives and really microtargeting our resources where they need to be, because they are very limited.”
Supporters of the bill think that Governor Christie will sign it into law, should it make it to his desk due to its money-saving focus.