A bill to reduce the penalties for minor marijuana possession in New Jersey won unanimous bipartisan approval in the Assembly Judiciary Committee yesterday. The vote on A1465 was 7-0, with five Democrats and two Republican on the committee voting to move the bill forward. Having cleared the committee, the bill could get a vote before the whole Assembly as early as Thursday.
The proposed bill would decriminalize the possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana and marijuana related drug paraphernalia. A person caught with a small amount of marijuana would be subject to only a $150 civil penalty for a first offense. A second offense would result in a $200 fine, and all further offenses would result in a $500 fine. If a person over the age of 21 is caught three times they would be referred to a drug education program. The possession of marijuana related paraphernalia would also no longer be a criminal offense and would result in a $100 civil penalty.
Under current New Jersey law possession of a small amount of marijuana for personal use is a criminal offense that can result in up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine.
New Jersey’s Republican governor Chris Christie has yet to take a position of the proposed bill one way or the other, but the bill has been cosponsored by three Republicans in the Assembly.
If New Jersey adopts this law it will be the latest state to reduce the punishment for minor marijuana possession. Last year Connecticut passed a law decriminalizing the possession of a small amount of marijuana, and in 2010 California reduced the penalty from a misdemeanor to a simple infraction.