New Jersey Promised Us Legal Weed. So Why Are People Still Being Arrested?


Greater than two-thirds of New Jerseyans voted to legalize marijuana final 12 months. A provision affirming as a lot is now written within the New Jersey Structure efficient January 1st. And payments to legalize and tax the possession of as much as six ounces of leisure hashish have been authorised by majorities within the state legislature. 

That didn’t cease native police from busting New Jersey’s most well-known marijuana activist, Ed “NJ Weedman” Forchion final week in Wanaque, NJ. He was pulled over whereas driving his decked-out “Weedmobile” SUV and hit with a slew of marijuna possession prices.  As a consequence of getting lower than 50 grams of marijuana, NJ Weedman mentioned police additionally seized $9,000 in money he had on him on the time of the cease:

“I’m Weedman. Am I gonna have some weed on me? Hell, yeah,” he mentioned on his podcast. “I had slightly tiny little bit of weed, too, that’s how I checked out it…However the worst half about it was they took all the cash I had on me.”

Such is the pot predicament within the Backyard State, the place 2,378 prices towards individuals for possession of lower than 50 grams of marijuana had been filed in January alone, based on the state judiciary. In the meantime, two payments that might decriminalize marijuana and set up a marijuana market are sitting on the desk of Gov. Phil Murphy, who ran for workplace 4 years in the past vowing to legalize leisure hashish. So what occurred?

Although the constitutional modification on marijuana was anticipated to move by broad margins, lawmakers didn’t work out the specifics of what authorized weed would love till after Election Day. They spent the weeks after November third agreeing to the small print: Possession of as much as six ounces (that’s loads) could be authorized for these 21 and older; 70 % of gross sales taxes and the whole lot of a growers charge could be earmarked to communities adversely affected by federal drug coverage (for mentoring, authorized help, well being care, and different packages); and psychedelic mushrooms would even be decriminalized. 

However the decriminalization invoice and the regulatory invoice battle on what occurs when somebody beneath the authorized age of 21 is caught with hashish. Murphy says he received’t signal the payments till lawmakers handle the discrepancy. The deadline to signal the measures initially was final Monday, however legislative leaders allowed for extra time—till subsequent Thursday. A listening to on the under-21 query is at the moment scheduled for Monday. 

Hearken to Matt Katz’s report on WNYC:

Members of the Legislative Black Caucus  are pushing for restricted punishment—like a $50 high quality and no arrest—for underage customers caught with hashish so as to cut back the quantity of contact that younger individuals have with police. There’s additionally disagreement about whether or not New Jerseyans needs to be allowed to develop marijuana at dwelling. 

However as Trenton continues to debate the small print of legalization, individuals are nonetheless getting busted for the ostensibly authorized plant in droves. An Lawyer Basic’s order says prosecutors ought to adjourn low-level marijuana prosecutions till March, and it’s probably that the two,300-plus prices for low-level marijuana possession which have been recorded in 2021 will in the end be dropped. However the truth that arrests are nonetheless occurring means Black and brown New Jerseyans are nonetheless having pointless interactions with police, which will be harmful. 

“There are an entire bunch of penalties that emerge simply from a police interplay. It doesn’t should be a prosecution that results in collateral penalties,” mentioned Amol Sinha, government director of the New Jersey American Civil Liberties Union and a longtime proponent of legalization. “As we all know, when police are engaged and work together with the general public, any second can result in an escalation that results in tragic outcomes.”

He mentioned one consequence of an arrest is asset forfeiture, when cash or property from the particular person charged is seized by police — which is strictly what occurred to NJ Weedman. 

NJ Weedman mentioned he’s prepared for this battle — he’s identified for difficult, and beating, marijuana prohibition legal guidelines. He owns Weedman’s Joint in Trenton, simply down the block from the Statehouse and throughout from Metropolis Corridor, that sells each sandwiches and marijuana. The SUV he was driving when he was pulled over is conspicuous — it’s made to appear like a New Jersey State Police car, and has “Pot Trooper” written on the aspect. However his case nonetheless exemplifies the authorized ambiguity surrounding legalization that the Backyard State is at the moment experiencing.

If Murphy works out the disagreements over underage possession and indicators the payments, there are nonetheless extra hurdles: City officers should give the inexperienced gentle for shops to open of their communities, and there should be sufficient provide within the state to satisfy the requirement that every one marijuana offered in New Jersey additionally must be grown there. 

These caveats however, advocates imagine present medical marijuana suppliers will add leisure dispensaries to their operations and promote marijuana, legally, by the top of 2021.